Thursday, 14 October 2010

Cambodian cities of the future – they're just around the corner

via CAAI

Written by Soeun Say
Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:01

Satellite City Approved Projects

Camko City

Developer: World City Company, of South Korea
Projected cost: $2 billion
Area: 119 hectares in the Boeung Pong Peay Development Zone, Russei Keo district, north of Phnom Penh
Completion: 2018

Grand Phnom Penh International City
Developer: Cambodia’s YLP Group and Ciputra Group of Indonesia
Projected cost: $600 million
Area: 260 hectares in Kmounh commune, Russei Keo district, northwest of Phnom Penh
Completion: 2018

Koh Pich or Diamond Island City
Developer: Oversea Corporation Investment of Cambodia
Projected cost: $300 million
Area: covers 100 hectares along the Tonle Bassac River in Chamkarmon district
Completion: 2016 at the earliest

Boeung Kak Lake Development
Developer: Shukaku Inc.
Projected cost: $1.5 billion
Area:133 hectares, Daun Penh district and Toul Kork district (Boeung Kak Lake)
Completion: Unknown

Sunway City
Developer: Sunway City Bhd.
Projected cost: $2 billion
Area: 387 hectares in Chroy Changva commune, east of Phnom Penh
Completion: Unknown

BY 2020 the face of Phnom Penh could be dramatically changed with five massive multi-billion-dollar self-contained satellite cities rising from the outer urban landscape.

All under construction, the sprawling development projects will include residential and commercial areas as well as industrial parks, schools, hospitals and full public services, which Cambodian public officials see as an answer to overcrowding and traffic congestion and a means to increase commercial development beyond downtown areas.

“So far all the satellite city projects are still under construction and everything is going smoothly as planned. We don’t see any of the cities faced with any problems,” said Lao Tip Seiha, director of the construction department of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

He said that despite there having been a world economic crisis he hoped that all the satellite city projects would come on line by 2020 and by that time would be fully in use.

Lao Tip Seiha said that it was very important that Cambodian government decided to set up satellite cities in Phnom Penh, firstly because it would coordinate people movement into the city an secondly it would reduce the poverty of people and traffic congestion.

“It is right that the government decided set up new urban areas like this as it will give Cambodian people a better way of living in the future,” he said.

He said developing a satellite city was not going to take just two or three years to complete, and there needed to be a lot of meetings to review each step of the development plans.

“We [the ministry] will go down to inspect their progressing project developments in order to keep them working on schedule. We always go down to construction sites and we’re planning to inspect all sites in Cambodia in order to strengthen relationships and persuade the owners of the buildings to be optimistic and confident about the sale or rent of their project,” he said.

However, initial progress on the projects has been slow, causing both developers and city officials to make reassuring noises that the Kingdom’s first urban mega projects were on track for completion despite facing some obstacles.

Critics of the satellite cities – which until a few years ago were unimaginable in this low-slung capital that traded on its quiet colonial charm – say city planners are rushing prematurely into first-world development projects that threaten the very soul of Phnom Penh.

Ching Chhom Mony, Dean of Architecture at the Royal University of Fine Arts, said that by the government allowing the development of satellite cities or skyscrapers – such as Camko City – close to the capital it would cause serious traffic issues and a more polluted environment, as well as a more crowded city.

He said that while he felt it was very good to have satellite cities developers should study in more detail the master plan and infrastructure or it would cause these problems.

David Simmaster, chairman of CBRE Indochina, said that he seriously hoped that by 2020 Phnom Penh would not reflect the development patterns of Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City.

“Phnom Penh is an attractive city which was originally planned in the 1960s,” he said.

“The city’s soil characteristics and low-lying altitude resemble Bangkok. However, with good infrastructure, we prefer to see developments spread to suburban areas, in a structured and planned manner.”

He said that the Cambodian property market had not been directly affected by the global crisis and values were far cheaper than neighboring countries. Purchasers would come with growth in the local economy and prosperity.

“We believe 2010 will be a significantly better year than 2009,” he said. “We see long-term potential for the residential market in Phnom Penh, but it is important that developers are cautious and will need to study market demand and affordability and scale their developments accordingly.

“Bringing on a project five years before demand will be economically challenging for developers,” he said.

He believed there was potential for satellite city projects in Phnom Penh but it was a question of time rather than whether the capital would expand.

Mega projects

The satellite cities that will change the face of Phnom Penh … the five mega projects.

The proposed Camko City.
Camko City
Among the first of the new urban centres to be completed will be the $2-billion Camko City project, approved in 2005 and being built by South Korea’s World City Company on a 119-hectare site in the Boeung Pong Peay Development Zone in the Russei Keo district north of Phnom Penh.

“We are working to complete our first phase development,” said Kheng Ser, of the team management of the World City Company.

“There were 164 units of town houses and 18 villas completed in early 2008. Recently, two high rise buildings have been completed and another six more buildings are expected to be ready by early October. We are planning to finish the first phase development by early next year with the completion of seven high rise buildings.

“About 80 percent of the 1,009 units in the first phase of construction have been sold.”
He said that up until now, more than 100 families were staying in the town house and villa area, most of them Cambodian.

“As we have observed, the real estate sector in Cambodia has been better since early 2010. We have seen many more transactions compared to 2009 and think the recession is going to end sooner rather than later,” he said.

As the property co-ownership law had just been enacted and its supportive legal framework had not been in the process, its impact had so far been limited, he said.

“After the official visit to Singapore by the Cambodian leaders, we have seen many foreigners such as the Singaporeans, Chinese and some Europeans visiting our site, some of whom have even purchased or leased the properties here,” he said.

Kheng Ser said that the Camko project, like other projects, was also affected by the real estate downturn but “no matter how hard it was” the project would continuously be moved forward.

Grand Phnom Penh International City
Grand Phnom Penh International City is a joint venture between the Cambodian YLP Group Co Ltd and Indonesia’s Ciputra Group. The $600-million project is being planned on a 260- hectare site in Russei Keo district, northwest of Phnom Penh.

Including a 70-hectare golf course and driving range, Grand Phnom Penh International City would be the most extensive of the planned satellite cities, according to the project’s sales manager, Teng Rithy.

The development would be fully self-contained, with residential areas, schools, a hospital and business, shopping and recreational areas.

The project is to include up to 4,000 residential units, on lots of 140-600 square meters, with prices ranging from $98,000 to $600,000.

He said at least 300 villas in the first phase had already been sold to luxury-oriented buyers, and 80 shops sites had also been sold. Initially planned for completion by 2018, the city would be developed over a period of 8-10 years depending on market demand.

“We have already sold 300 villas and 80 shophouses for the first phase,” Teng Rithy said.

The company has also completed the first nine holes of the 18-hole international golf course, opening them on September 18 this year and hopes to complete the other nine holes in February 2011.

Koh Pich or Diamond Island City
Other satellite cities in the pipeline include Koh Pich City, approved in 2006. Financed by Cambodia’s Canadia Bank to the tune of $300 million, Koh Pich City will be located on 100 hectares along the Tonle Bassac River in Chamkarmon district.

Touch Samnang, project manager and architect of the Overseas Corporation Investment of Cambodia’s Diamond Island development project, said that his company was developing 168 apartments and villas for the first phase on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich.

To date 40 percent of construction has been completed and 50 percent sold. The company has also completed a Diamond night market with 108 stores rented, two wedding centres, and an exhibition centre.

He said the company was preparing for construction and had already designed an architectural plan for the skyscraper.

“We decided to build it to 555 metres. We are now studying the land in more detail and then we will start construction on it,” he said.

Boeung Kak Lake Development
The $1.5 billion total cost project lies on 133 hectares in the Daun Penh district and Toul Kork district (Boeung Kak Lake) and it has long been unclear whether Shukaku Inc, the obscure local developer in charge of the commercial and housing project, has been backed by foreign investors.

Additional Chinese news reports described the project as Yunnan’s “largest foreign investment”, putting the total cost of the project at around $1.5 billion. One said $680 million would be spent on the first construction phase, to run from 2007 to 2010, with the project to be completed in 2013.

The development at Boeung Kak – known in Chinese as wanguhu, or “10,000 Valley Lake” – has prompted continued controversy, with rights groups estimating that more than 4,000 families will be forced to make way for the project.

In August 2008, Shukaku began filling the lake with sand, a process that has reclaimed large tracts of the lake’s surface, forcing some residents to move away from the site.

When completed, the planned satellite cities would cover a combined area of 1,000 hectares, about 2.4 percent of the city’s 375 square kilometers.

Sunway City
Still on the drawing boards is the Malaysian-invested Sunway City, approved in 2005 but suspended in development limbo as the project waits on site clearance and the resettlement of villagers.

The $2-billion project, situated on a 387-hectare site along National Road 6A in Chroy Changva commune, Russei Keo district, currently has no timeframe for completion, with compensation needed for “a very long list of families” claimed a senior former staffer on the project who asked not to be named.

“So far, nothing’s been developed,” he said. “We are waiting until the government deals with the problem of squatters first. We can’t do anything if too many squatters are still on the land.”

Hun Sen says to be wary of flood dangers

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:02 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

PRIME Minister Hun Sen yesterday called on all Cambodians to be aware of the dangers of nationwide floods, as the head of the National Committee for Disaster Management said at least five deaths had been reported since Sunday.

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to everyone to be careful about the floods, and I would like to appeal to authorities to rescue our people,” Hun Sen said in a speech at a graduation ceremony held at the National Institute of Education.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said on Monday that low atmospheric pressure would see flooding through yesterday in all lowland areas – including Phnom Penh – as well as across the provinces of Kampong Speu, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng.

Keo Vy, director of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said yesterday that at least five deaths had been confirmed.

Yin Bun Nath, deputy police chief in Preah Sihanouk province, said the body of a Cambodian fisherman was discovered near the island of Koh Takeav yesterday morning.

“The body has now been sent to his family in Kampot province,” he said. “We hope that no more people are missing in the province.”

In Kampong Chhnang, provincial police chief Ath Khen said two men were killed – one who was struck by lightning, and another who drowned.

No details were available for two more deaths cited by Keo Vy, though he noted that they took place in Siem Reap province and in Preah Sihanouk province.

On Tuesday, Van Sokha, secretary to the Kampong Speu provincial governor, said that two men in that province had been killed by electric shocks generated by a power line that was downed by strong winds.

Thoun Chem, a fishing community representative in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district, said yesterday that 20 fishermen reported missing since Sunday after their boats sank had been found and returned to their homes.

Evictees fighting to stay afloat

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:02 Matt Lundy

Kandal province

DURING the past few nights of heavy rains, Ny Chakteng and her children lay wide awake in their hut in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, where water leaks through a makeshift roof of tarp and cardboard and dry space is scarce.

The single mother of five used to take her children to higher elevation during flooding, but a new drainage channel means that her stilted hut is now liveable during storms. Still, the rising waters have her worried about the safety of her children.

“My son has infections on his legs from wading in the flood water,” Ny Chakteng said, pointing to scabs and open sores on her toddler.

“I don’t have much hope for the future.”

The villagers of Ny Chakteng’s Tang Khiev community were forcibly removed from their homes in the capital’s Dey Krahorm community last year by police and construction workers employed by 7NG Group, a local developer.

Yesterday, local rights groups Sahmakum Teang Tnaut and the Housing Rights Task Force visted the relocation site to assess the damage done by this week’s storms, which have affected communities across the country. Despite recent improvements, the evictees are still struggling in squalid conditions.

“The quality of living is not nice at all, and it’s not hygienic,” said Ee Sarom, advocacy programme manager for STT, who noted that there was just one washroom in the community.

Most villagers in the community live within a land depression, which causes floodwaters to pool around their homes. To avoid this problem, Ee Sarom said the land “must be filled in and raised”.

Some measures have been taken to divert the water. About six weeks ago, a group of NGOs carved a 230-metre drainage channel, about 2 metres in depth, to drain water from the village centre to a nearby rice paddy.

“Before the channel, the floodwaters were chest-high, about 5 feet deep,” said Thek Pheurum, a community representative. “It took three or four days to get rid of the water.

“Now the water level is waist-high and it goes down in four hours,” he said.

For Ee Sarom, the channel is an improvement, but only a temporary fix.

“[The channel] might make problems one day for the rice paddies, because the village is sending dirty water to it,” he said. “The owner might not allow it.”

Kandal provincial governor Chhun Sirun dimissed concerns about flooding in the community, and said the situation was improving.

“It is nothing serious because it was caused by the rain,” he said.


Border fire: Thais shot at loggers, police say

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

Border fire

MILITARY police officials based in Oddar Meanchey province yesterday accused Thai soldiers of opening fire on a group of eight Cambodians who had crossed the border into Surin province to fell trees illegally, injuring two.

Vorn Chandara, a military police commander in Samroang town, said more than 30 Thai soldiers opened fire on the Cambodians on Monday night, and that one of the Cambodians was still missing as of early yesterday evening.

“Seven people came back home already on Tuesday, but there is a man still lost, and we know that he was shot and is seriously injured,” he said. He identified the man who was still missing as 21-year-old Tith Brach.

Thai military officials could not be reached. The rights group Adhoc reported in February that more than 20 Cambodian civilians had been shot by Thai soldiers in the border region in the past two years.

NZ rapist in court, facing fresh charges

Photo by: Sovan Philong
New Zealander Graham Cleghorn and Atsushi Kato of Japan are led into Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. SOVAN PHILONG

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A NEW Zealand man serving a 20-year prison sentence on rape charges appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday to face charges of defamation and disinformation filed by an NGO that he has publicly accused of setting him up.

Graham Cleghorn, 62, was convicted in 2004 of raping five teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 19 who were employed at his Siem Reap home.

He has since claimed in several media interviews that the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre, an NGO that provides services to vulnerable women and children, had paid the five girls US$10,000 each to testify against him.

Cleghorn, who represented himself at yesterday’s hearing, pleaded not guilty to the defamation and disinformation charges.

“What I said through media interviews was accurate,” he said.

He added that he had evidence to support his claims in the form of a letter from a girl stating that a CWCC official had asked her to testify against him in exchange for $10,000.

He said the letter and other documents he would like to present were being stored at the Supreme Court.

“I would like to request you to give me time to contact my embassy and government to help me find a lawyer, and for me to get the documents from the Supreme Court,” he said.

Presiding Judge Din Sivuthy agreed to the request, and scheduled the next hearing for November 15.

Say Vathany, executive director of the CWCC, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

During a recent interview at Prey Sar prison, Cleghorn claimed that the publicity around his case had led to an increase in foreign donations to the CWCC, which had capitalised on “hysteria’’ about paedophilia.

He said he had despaired of clearing his name after the Appeal Court upheld the convictions against him in 2007.

“I’m never going to get a fair trial. The most I can hope for is a reduced sentence,” he said.


Mine casualties increasing

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:02 Cameron Wells and Thet Sambath

CASUALTIES resulting from land mines and explosive remnants of war this year remain on pace to exceed those from 2009, according to a report released this week, which would mark the first year-on-year increase since 2005.

The monthly report, released on Tuesday by the Cambodian Mine Action And Victim Assistance Authority, said total casualties reached 207 for the period of January to August this year, compared with just 186 for the same period in 2009. Of those, 45 people were killed, 37 required amputations and 125 suffered other injuries.

After about five years of minor fluctuation, casualties in Cambodia fell by 50 percent – to 450 – in 2006, and the total has declined every year since. Last year, 244 were recorded.

Chhiv Lim, project manager for the Cambodia Mine/ERW Victim Information System, said yesterday that this year’s increase was likely due to people carelessly venturing into areas that had not been properly de-mined. “Some play with ERWs like they are toys,” he said.

But Jamie Franklin, country programme director for the Mine Action Group, suggested that the elevated casualty total could be the result of a single anomalous month. May saw a total of 51 casualties, making it the worst month for Cambodia in nearly three years.

“One mine accident in Pailin [province] in May resulted in 16 casualties when a vehicle carrying villagers to the fields for work detonated an antitank mine,” Franklin said via email.

Khem Sophoan, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, expressed concern about prospects for bringing yearly casualty totals down further, saying some countries had scaled back mine action donations.

“Some donors have promised to continue to assist us, but they later decreased their funding because of the effect of the economic crisis on their nations,” he said.

Battambang is the province most heavily hit by mines, with 112 casualties reported since January last year.

SMS texts warn drunken drivers

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda

A LOCAL mobile-phone operator has begun disseminating messages warning against drunken driving, though a system of nighttime checkpoints has been stalled by recent rough weather and other factors, officials said yesterday.

Gary Foo, marketing manager for Hello, said the company began sending out anti-drunken driving messages to subscribers last week at the behest of the National Police.

The messages state: “If you drink, do not drive. If you drive, do not drink.”

“We always participate in all of the government’s activities for the well-being of the people,” Foo said. “The message is to raise the public awareness on traffic issues and to make people socially responsible in the effort to reduce road accidents.”

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the municipal traffic police, said yesterday that the messages had been created by the Department of Public Order at the National Police, and that the department had contacted all nine mobile operators and requested that they send out the messages.

He said he did not know whether the other operators had agreed to participate.

The messages mark just one component of a wider police effort to crack down on drunken driving.

On October 1, municipal traffic police established nighttime drunken-driving checkpoints in all eight districts of the capital, and pulled over nearly 100 drivers in three days. The checkpoints were suspended, however, for the Pchum Ben festival, and Chev Hak said yesterday that this week’s flooding had prevented police from setting them up again.

“We planned to restart on October 11, but because the weather was not good, we decided to suspend. We will carry on from this week after there is no more rain,” he said yesterday.

Planned checkpoints in Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces have not yet been established. Though National Police Chief Neth Savoeun ordered that they be established in conjunction with those in Phnom Penh, officials said earlier this month that breath analysers had not arrived on time.

Moun Saran, Kandal’s deputy police chief, said yesterday that police had received seven breath analysers, but that they had not begun operating checkpoints.

“We have just trained our traffic police on how to use them, but haven’t started the task yet because of the heavy rains. We are going to start from next week,” he said.

Prach Chanthou, Kampong Speu’s traffic police chief, also said checkpoints had not been set up there, citing the weather and a “lack of street lamps”.

MFIs see loans, profits soar

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

LEADING microlenders have seen loan portfolios expand and profits soar, in one case by almost 100 percent quarter-on-quarter, as Cambodian business activities are boosted by economic recovery.

Prasac, Cambodia’s largest microfinance institution, reported yesterday that its loan portfolio increased by 21 percent to US$88.2 million at the end of quarter three, from $72.9 million at the second quarter’s end.

Its client numbers increased by 16 percent to 105,900 nationwide.

“The loan portfolio and number of borrowers grew due to increased demand in the agricultural sector and in small and micro-enterprise sector,” Sim Senacheert, general manager of Prasac, said yesterday.

“We expect to grow 10 to 15 percent in the last quarter of this year,” he added.

Prasac earned a net profit after tax of $728,000 in the third quarter, an increase of 99 percent from $365,000 at the end of second.

This was partially due to its increased portfolio and a drop in the rate of non-performing loans.

NPLs decreased from 1.44 percent to 1.14 percent during the last quarter.


The loan portfolio grew due to increased demand in the agricultural sector ...


Microlender Hattha Kaksekar Limited saw oustanding loans increase by around 14 percent to $39 million at the end of the third quarter.

Hout Ieng Tong, its general manager, said yesterday: “Business activities seem to be stronger because loan demand is increasing.”

HKL's net profits increased by 20 percent as loan repayments improved. The rate of bad loans continued to drop to 2.3 percent, from 2.6 percent in quarter two.

Hout Ieng Tong forecast that for 2010, HKL expected its loan portfolio to reach $40 million, 30 percent up on last year.

The Kingdom’s third-largest MFI, Sathapana Limited, also reported better performance during the quarter. Lending rose by around 13 percent to $50 million and the MPL rate dropped to 1.56 percent, from 1.84 percent.

“Economic improvement can reflect that business activity is getting better, clients can generate sufficient income to repay the debts,” chairman Bun Mony told the Post yesterday.

Quarter on quarter, Sathapana saw the value of construction loans increase by 22 percent, household consumption loans rose 21 percent, services and transportation were up 25 percent, small trades were up 13 percent, and agricultural loans rose by 11 percent.

The lending growth was also experienced among smaller MFIs.

Cambodia Business Integrated In Rural Development Agency, reported that its lending increased by 2 percent increase to $1 million in the third quarter.

Customers increased by 5 percent to 2,100. The institution provides the interest rate between 2 and 3 percent per month.

“We saw from one quarter to another, lending has gradually increased. It could reflect the recovery of the economy,” Prom Mary, CBIRD board director, said yesterday.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said yesterday: “In general, we saw that the demand for loans is pertinent to the situaton of the economy, and since late last year, the recovery has started, and lending has gradually increased.”

Trade with Malaysia rises after visit by Najib

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

CAMBODIA’S trade with Malaysia is increasing in line with the world economy and benefited from the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to Phnom Penh in May, officials said yesterday.

Speaking at the first Malaysia trade fair, which began at Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld, the Malaysian ambassador Mohd Hussein Mohd Tahir Nasruddin said trade links between the two ASEAN members were becoming increasing strong.

“Cambodia is not only an important emerging market, but also an important destination for investments and sources of imports,” he said.

The Malaysian Prime Minister’s May visit had encouraged investment from companies running hotels, restaurants, the beverage industry, and hospitals, he said, but he did not mention specific ventures by name.

During that trip deals said to be worth $1 billion were signed.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade totalled US$113.4 from January to the end of August 2010, which the Post calculated to be a 13.8 percent rise on trade worth $99.6 million for the same period of 2009.

The Malaysian ambassador added that Cambodia’s rice exports could increase in the future.

Cambodia’s Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said that under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, trade was likely to continue increasing as duties would be fully removed by 2015.

“Cambodia and Malaysia are dynamic market economies that depend on international trade for stimulating economic growth,” he added.

Francis WK Ng, sales manager at Amerseal Industrial, which sells glue and cleaning products, said yesterday: “Cambodia has lots of potential.”

Joint sugar venture sees positive testing

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Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

A US$115 million joint investment between Cambodia’s agriculture giant Mong Reththy Group and Paris-based sugar trader Sucres Et Denrees is a step closer to finalisation, after lengthy sugarcane testing gave positive results.

Mong Reththy said that his company and SUCDEN were planning to invest $115 million in a 10,000-hectare sugar plantation and factory in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district – depending on the outcome of the feasibility studies.

He said the result of the tests, conducted on the sugar cane plants for nearly two years on 30 hectares, showed the sugar levels met the necessary standard for producing sugar.

“We are able to invest in producing sugar for export now because the result of the test is very positive”, he said Tuesday.

However, he added that although the tests showed that sugar could be produced, the investment was still awaiting a transportation costs study.

The planting area is about 550 kilometeres away from Phnom Penh, where the sugar produced would need to go for export. If the plan goes ahead, Mong Reththy said a sugar factory would be built by 2014 and would employ up to 10,000 people.

Eang Sophalleth, personal advisor to the Prime Minister, said France’s ambassador in Phnom Penh, François Desmazières, had asked Hun Sen to support the investment in a meeting on Monday.

Business secrecy a concern for organisers of economic census

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Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:01 Rann Ruey

GOVERNMENT officials have voiced concerns that Cambodia’s first economic census, slated for next March and costing up to US$3 million, could be made more difficult by uncooperative businesses.

The economic census, largely funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency, aims to gather concrete business-related information to facilitate foreign investment and organise national-level business strategy, according to officials.

San Sy Than, general director of the Ministry of Planning’s National Institute of Statistics, said concerns of business confidentiality made the economic census more difficult to carry out than the population census.

But he encouraged businesses to trust the census officials.

“[The economic census] is smaller, but it’s more difficult to do than the population census,” he told the Post at the close of a meeting held between the NIS and JICA officials on Tuesday.

“We expect that the businesses will cooperate well and give the correct information. We will keep all the [company specific] information confidential.”

Cambodia’s last population census in 2008 cost around US$7 million, he said.

Mong Reththy, senator and head of agriculture giant Mong Reththy Group, said he would be willing to cooperate without secrecy with government requests for information.

“I have no reason to hide anything. I’m happy to answer all the questions they want to ask,” he said.

The economic census, which is undertaken in many other countries throughout the world, would help the government gather official data to construct national economic policy and attract investment to the Kingdom, San Sy Than said.

The census will take place from March 1 to 31 and will employ more than 20,000 people and 4,000 officials to interview business owners, he said. Preliminary results will be released in July next year, with official results released in March 2012.

The NIS’ last survey in early 2009 found 375,095 enterprises operated in the Kingdom, not including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and mobile-network businesses.

From scrapheap to new houses

Photo by: Ou Mom
Traditional chay yam performances of music and dance marked the opening of the first three homes to be completed by Habitat for Humanity. Above right, families who received keys to their new

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:00 Ou Mom

V OLUNTEERS from former slums, schools, companies and non-profit groups joined hands to celebrate the handover of three houses they built for former residents of Phnom Penh’s Steung Meanchey refuse tip.

The new homes are among 52 to be built in the latest project by Habitat for Humanity in Oudong, where the families were resettled in neighbouring Kandal province. Ten houses were now under construction, but more volunteers were needed to help finish the project over the next two years, said the group.

Another 21 homes built by the New Equity Association of Hope in the same area were opened last November by former United States president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn.

Last week’s handover brought tears to the eyes of the three families when they were given ceremonial keys to their new brick-built houses.

“I’ve never had my own house before – I just used to rent a shack at the Steung Meanchey dump,”said new homeowner Chhun Vuy Leng. “When it rained, the old house flooded and we got skin infections. We had to live amid the stink and suffered a lot of infections,” he said.

“But now I’ve got a new house with a green environment around, and fresh air. I’d like to live here forever.”

His sentiments were echoed by another proud new homeowner, Rang Leng Eng. She said, tears welling up: “Thank you to everyone who helped build my house. Finally I can live in my dream home.”

The celebrations were launched with a performance of classic chay yam music, comedy and dancing. Those interested in building homes can spend half a day or more helping to build the houses, and don’t need any special skills or knowledge, according to Melissa Cronin, the communication officer of Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia.

However, there was always the chance for volunteers to learn new skills under the guidance of the group’s leaders, she added.

Even teenage students have helped lay bricks, as Northbridge International School student Roath Siv Kim found out. “When I helped build the houses this September, I found out the work was much harder than I expected. But I realised that I could help other people,” she said. “I felt happy when I understood that all my sweat was not useless.”

Another volunteer was a former Tonle Bassac shack dweller who has been rehoused in Phnom Penh’s Thmei commune in Sen Sok district.

Sor Sophors recalled her days living in a wooden shack under a thatched palm roof with a shudder. “When I used to live there, there was no security. I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid of burglars and the fire risk,” she said.

“And when friends asked me where I lived, I was too ashamed to tell them I lived in Sombuk Chab village – it was so embarrassing,” said the 28-year-old.

“Being poor and having lived in the same squatter conditions, I can understand the feeling of those who get the new houses,” said Sor Sophors, who is now working for International Coorperation Cambodia.

“Today my family has a better livelihood since we have an appropriate habitat. It helps my family and me to live with good sanitation and security, away from all the diseases. And because I’ve got no pressure, it helps me in my studies,” she said.

The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October as World Habitat Day, a call to people around the world to exchange ideas and promote the need and importance of housing. This year was the 27th annual Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project celebrating the event.

For more information on how to volunteer, contact Habitat for Humanity on 097 752 32 83 or 012 792 782.


Coach Lee notes improvement from tour

Photo by: Sreng Mengsrun
Cambodian internationals Sin Dalin (left) and Kuoch Sokumpheak perform a fitness drill during a training session Tuesday.

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

The Cambodian national football head coach Lee Tae Hoon of South Korea believes there is a marked improvement in his team’s work ethic and fitness level but says a lot needs to be done to fine-tune the players’ positional sense and instinctive first-touch passing. 

Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
Cambodian national team head coach Lee Tae Hoon said he got to know the players during their recent training tour in Vietnam.

Back home after a 35-day training tour of neighbouring Vietnam, the second Korean coach in charge of the Kingdom’s team in three years said the trip was an eye-opener for himself and the rest of the squad.

“Most importantly, I got to know the players – their strengths and weaknesses – better and they in turn got to know me and my methods better, leading to a healthier working climate,” he said after a training session at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday.

“There is a load of hard work ahead of us before we get down to the crucial qualifying rounds of the 2010 Suzuki Cup in Laos a few weeks from now.”

During extensive training sessions and several friendlies against V-League teams, the coach said he could easily detect the zest and promise in the Cambodian squad, although he noted the players were not properly performing their professed roles, depending heavily on individual pace and losing sight of their sense of space and quick ball rotations.

“Speed is good if you can harness it well, but it needs to be supported by all-round solidity. We need to focus on the backline and to sharpen midfielders to be more mobile and lively,” said Lee.

Of the 22 players who made it to Vietnam, three including a goalkeeper have now been dropped. The streamlined squad of 18 will head to Vientiane for Suzuki Cup action during the last week of this month.

The head coach struck a cautiously optimistic note on the Kingdom’s prospects in the four-team qualifiers, contending that if the side played to its true potential they should fancy their chances of advancing to the finals, which will be played in Indonesia and Vietnam in December.

Goalkeeping had been one area of real concern for the head coach, but Lee now feels that the two stoppers Ouk Mick and Peng Bunchhay now fit into the scheme of things.

Cambodia face qualifiers hosts Laos on October 22, before playing East Timor two days later and then the Philippines on October 26.

PPPost take first blood in Mini Soccer Championship

Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
Phnom Penh Post’s Olusegun Obakeye shoots at goal during their Mini Soccer Championship league game against Cellcard Tuesday night at the Kidzcool astroturf pitch. The Post won the match 12-5.

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 15:00 Dan Riley

The Phnom Penh Post are the surprise leaders of their Mini Soccer championship after opening rounds of fixtures on Tuesday at the Kidzcool Astroturf pitch. The blue-shirted journos gave tournament newcomers ANZ Royal a rocky welcome with a 6-4 defeat in their first game, before smashing debutants Cellcard 12-5 in their second match.

Last season’s fourth place finishers JBCF (formerly known as Indochina) replicated their fine form with two wins out of two on Tuesday to claim second spot behind the Post on goal difference.

Freshers Beeline, meanwhile, got their campaign ball rolling with a 9-4 win against hosts Kidzcool, who were not exactly pretty in pink on the night, losing their other match against Cellcard 5-3 to wind up at the foot of the table on -7 goal difference.

Tonight’s games see champions Devenco begin their title defence, with a riveting rematch of the final against Smart scheduled for 8:10pm. Newly constructed Banzai face Me Mates Place (formerly Expat Advisory) in what promises to be a fierce battle between the expat rivals, while Infinity and Ezecom also return to the plastic pitch to try to improve on their previous campaigns.

Sam Rainsy conviction upheld

Heng Chivoan.
Svay Rieng province villagers Meas Srey (left) and Prum Chea are led into the Appeal Court yesterday.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 19:35 Meas Sokchea

The Appeal Court in Phnom Penh has ordered the release of two villagers convicted along with opposition leader Sam Rainsy in connection with a protest against alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory, though Sam Rainsy’s two-year term was upheld.

The two villagers – Meas Srey, 40, and Prum Chea, 41 – saw their one-year jail terms for destroying public property reduced by just over two months.

The pair was sentenced in January at the Svay Rieng provincial court after an October incident in which they allegedly joined Sam Rainsy in uprooting border markers in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district.

The Appeal Court upheld Sam Rainsy’s two-year sentence for racial incitement and destroying public property, and maintained the original fine for all three of 55 million riels (US$12,999), along with an additional 8 million riels Sam Rainsy was required to pay in compensation to district authorities.

After spending nine months and 20 days in prison, Meas Srey and Prum Chea said they were relieved to be heading home.

“I am very excited to return and see my children,” Meas Srey said as she walked out of the courtroom.

Prum Chea said he was “very happy” and “thankful” for his release.

Judge Khun Leang Meng said the actions of Sam Rainsy and the two villagers had adversely affected Cambodian-Vietnamese relations, and held Sam Rainsy chiefly responsible.

“This activity has affected the dignity of both countries’ people,” he said. “[We] understood that Meas Srey and Prum Chea uprooted the posts, but they acted on the incitement [of Sam Rainsy].”

In justifying the villagers’ early release, Khun Leang Meng said they did not have the same level of education about the law as Sam Rainsy. He also noted that they are both first-time offenders with children to care for at home.

Sam Sokong, the lawyer for Meas Srey and Prum Chea, said he would consider appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn their fine because his clients “do not have the ability to pay”.

Sam Rainsy, who is living abroad after fleeing the Kingdom last year, said in an email from Finland that the government should “apologise to Meas Srey and Prum Chea for unjustly arresting them and detaining them for nearly a year”.

He also called on the government to “give them back their rice fields in Svay Rieng province’s Koh Kban Kandal village with appropriate land titles and assurances that they will be allowed to live in peace from now on”.

The decision follows Sam Rainsy’s conviction in abstentia last month for disinformation and falsifying public documents in connection with his attempts to vindicate his claims of Vietnamese encroachment. The opposition leader received a 10-year prison sentence to go with the two-year term handed down in Svay Rieng.

When asked whether he would appeal yesterday’s decision, Sam Rainsy said he had “no respect for any court in Cambodia”, and that “a political solution is needed for this political problem”.


ECCC corruption report suppressed

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 20:41 Vong Sokheng and James O’Toole

The official tasked with investigating corruption complaints at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has said that the first report conducted by his office will not be made public, contrary to earlier claims.

Uth Chhorn, the head of the National Audit Authority who was appointed Independent Counsellor for the tribunal last year, said in June that he expected a report of his office’s investigations to be made public by the following month. On Wednesday however, he said there were no longer plans for such disclosure.

“Both sides, the government and the United Nations, agreed not to release the report to the public,” Uth Chhorn said. “I don’t know the reason.”

Uth Chhorn said his report had been completed and forwarded to both the government and the UN “a few months ago”.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that he had no information on the issue.

The UN Office of Legal Affairs in New York had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

The UN-backed tribunal first faced corruption allegations in 2006, when Cambodian staff members said they had been forced to pay portions of their salaries to their superiors.

A November 2008 report by a German parliamentary delegation quoted Knut Rosandhaug, the court’s deputy director of administration, as saying that corruption was “a serious problem ... which impedes on the work of the hybrid court”.

In a report issued this past July, however, the Open Society Justice Initiative said the tribunal had taken “significant steps to address the corruption problem”.

In March, United States Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Stephen Rapp announced a US$5 million donation to the tribunal that he said had come following the American assessment that “credible steps” had been taken to address the issue of corruption.

The office of the Independent Counsellor was established in August of last year in part to satisfy donor demands that an effective mechanism to combat corruption be put in place.

Under the agreement beween the UN and the government that established the position, there is no obligation listed for the independent counsellor’s office to publicise its work.

The agreement calls only for the independent counsellor to “carry out his or her responsibilities strictly confidentially” and “to inform the Deputy Prime Minister ... and the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs of the United Nations at Headquarters in the event of any concerns which he or she deems appropriate to raise at that level”.

Cambodia Justice Initiative project officer Long Panhavuth said, however, that the office had an obligation to work transparently.

“The report with regard to the whistleblowers should be confidential, but when it comes to the report of the activity of the independent counsellor, it should be made public,” Long Panhavuth said.

“Otherwise, how can the public view whether the independent counsellor is functioning or is just a dead body?”

Abhisit on hotline to Hun Sen

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 20:38 Cheang Sokha

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva contacted him to clarify allegations reportedly made by Thai security forces that antigovernment activists planning to assassinate Abhisit had received training in Cambodia.

An investigator from Thailand’s department of special investigation reportedly alleged on Monday that a group of 11 antigovernment Red Shirt activists arrested in Thailand this month had received instruction from Cambodian soldiers during a three-week weapons training session.

The activists, DSI investigator Payao Thongsen reportedly said, were part of a group of 39 preparing to assassinate Abhisit and other Thai public figures.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen echoed earlier government comments in dismissing the allegations as groundless.

“Last night, I communicated with Abhisit directly via a special mechanism and he sent a text message to me stating that the official’s comments did not reflect their government’s stance,” Hun Sen said.

The premier said he responded to the message by asking whether comments reportedly made on Tuesday by the secretary general of Thailand’s national security council – affirming that the activists had trained in Cambodia – represented Bangkok’s position.

Hun Sen did not say how Abhisit had responded to this question.

Thai ministry of foreign affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said that the department of special investigation had not yet released its findings to his office.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said on Tuesday that Bangkok “does not accuse our neighbours of wrongdoing”, and would wait for the full results of the DSI report before acting on its findings.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the DSI allegations “unsubstantiated and malignant”. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers accused the DSI of playing “dirty games”.

“Thailand DSI is engaging in a new string of malicious political manoeuvring to intoxicate the international opinion, to link Cambodia to Thai internal political squabbling,” the Press and Quick Reaction Unit said.

Hun Sen said he would meet Abhisit on the sidelines of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi later this month to discuss the Thai parliament’s vote on the countries’ latest round of border negotiations and to ask him to withdraw the troops at Preah Vihear temple.

“If the troops are redeployed from that area, it is finished,” Hun Sen said. “We can reopen the border gate [near Preah Vihear temple] and there will be no problem.”


Lender bender

A shop assistant holds up a selection of chains at Chin Hua Heng Goldsmith gold shop in Bangkok. Demand for gold in Thailand will continue to grow as individual investors and consumers have increased purchases of the precious commodity due to attractive returns, said Jitti Tangsithpakdi, president of Thailand’s Gold Trader Association.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 18:56 Nguon Sovan

Leading microlenders have seen loan portfolios expand and profits soar, in one case by almost 100 percent quarter on quarter, as Cambodian business activities are boosted by economic recovery.

Prasac, Cambodia’s largest microfinance institution, reported its loan portfolio increased by 21 percent to US$88.2 million at the end of the third quarter, from $72.9 million at the second quarter’s end. Its client numbers increased by 16 percent to 105,900 nationwide.

“The loan portfolio and number of borrowers grew due to the further increased demand in the agricultural sector and in the small and microenterprise sectors,” said Sim Senacheert, general manager of Prasac.

“We expect to grow 10 to 15 percent in the last quarter of this year.”

Prasac earned a net profit after tax of $728,000 in the third quarter, an increase of 99 percent from $365,000 at the end of the second quater, due to its increased portfolio and a drop in the rate of non-performing loans – which decreased from 1.44 percent to 1.14 percent during the last quarter.

Microlender Hattha Kaksekar Ltd saw oustanding loans increase to $39 million in the third quarter, against $34 million in the second quarter.

Lending growth was also experienced among smaller MFIs.

Cambodia Business Integrated In Rural Development Agency, reported that its lending increased by 2 percent increase to $1 million in the third quarter.

Customers increased by 5 percent to 2,100. The institution provides the interest rate between 2 and 3 percent per month.

“We saw from one quarter to another, lending has gradually increased. It could reflect the recovery of the economy,” Prom Mary, CBIRD board director, said yesterday.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said: “In general, we saw that the demand for loans is pertinent to the situaton of the economy, and since late last year, the recovery has started, and lending has gradually increased.”

Japanese man guilty of buying underage sex

Photo by: Sovan Philong
New Zealander Graham Cleghorn and Atsushi Kato of Japan are led into Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday

via CAAI

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 22:29 Chrann Chamroeun

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has sentenced a Japanese man to seven years in prison after finding him guilty of purchasing sex from a 13-year-old girl in August last year.

Atsushi Kato, 40, was arrested in September 2009, one month after police raided a Daun Penh district brothel where he paid for sex with the girl on multiple occasions.

His arrest was carried out after he visited the government-run rehabilitation centre where the victim was held following the raid.

He said he paid the victim a visit because he wanted “to know how well she was being treated there”.

In addition to handing down the jail term, Judge Din Sivuthy ordered Kato to pay 400,000 riels (US$94) in compensation, and said he would be deported at the end of his sentence.

Kato told reporters after the verdict was announced that he planned to appeal.

“I am not happy with the conviction, and I will ask my lawyer to appeal the conviction at the Appeal Court,” he said.

Defence lawyer Kao Soupha said the sentence was “acceptable” because it was the minimum called for under the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.

He added, though, that the guilty verdict itself was unjust.

“My client was not aware that the prostitute was 13, because she was wearing makeup and it was not necessary to ask her for her identity card,” he said.

“This is my question to you court officials and government officials: When you go to have sex with girls, have you ever asked them to show identity cards?”

Nuon Phanith, a lawyer provided to the victim by child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said the compensation awarded to his client was “too small”.

“The court’s conviction is acceptable and just for my client, and is in the right accordance with the law,” he said.

“But the compensation is too small relative to the damage inflicted on the victim.”

In Preah Sihanouk province a court sentenced two men – Frenchman Michel Roger Blanchard, 44, and American Alan Arthur Perry, 57 – to 17 years and three years respectively in relation to child sex charges.

Blanchard was found guilty of unlawful removal with purpose and unlawful recruitment for exploitation against two underage boys in August 2008. Perry was found guilty of soliciting sex from four teenage boys in April.