Friday, 22 October 2010

Cambodian rail line opened to help regional trade

via CAAI

22 Oct 2010
Source: Reuters
By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Cambodia has reopened a stretch of railway destroyed during the country's war and officials described it as a step towards boosting regional trade through rail links with neighbours.

The Asian Development Bank is contributing $84 million to a $141 million project to repair 650 km (400 miles) of railway linking Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to its borders with Thailand and Vietnam by 2013.

The first section officially opened on Friday runs 120 km (75 miles) southwest from Phnom Penh to Touk Meas in Kampot province, near the border with Vietnam.

Kunio Senga, director general of the Asian Development Bank's Southeast Asia Department, told a news conference the rail link would lower the cost of staple commodities that poor Cambodian families depend on and would help position the country as a sub-regional transport hub.

Tauch Chankosal, secretary of state at Cambodia's Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said a study was under way for a rail link between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, possibly with financial help from China.

"The estimate is about $600 million," he said of the construction cost. "The funding is not yet finalised."

Toll Holdings Ltd of Australia has signed a 30-year concession to operate and maintain the railway, which was frequently mined and attacked by Khmer Rouge guerrillas leading to the deployment of cars mounted with machine guns in front of locomotives in the 1980s and 1990s.

Wayne Hunt, CEO of Toll Global Logistics, said the priority was to get freight operating. He said the firm had already invested $5 million and planned to employ 600 people eventually. (Editing by Alan Raybould)

Video of flood stricken Vietnam and Thailand

RussiaToday | October 20, 2010

At least 9 people have died as a result of flooding in Thailand that began last week. The government's Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said Wednesday that in addition to fatalities, the flooding has affected nearly 4000 villages in 19 provinces in eastern, central and northeastern parts of the country. Residents of the flood stricken region were seen on top of the roofs receiving aid packages from the Red Cross workers. Up to 120 centimetres of rain pounded the central region over the past week, submerging 200,000 houses and forcing 142,000 people to flee, according to the national floods and storms control committee. Central Vietnam also suffered severe flooding earlier this month that killed 66 people.

Opening Of Cambodia Railroad Puts Pan-Asian Railway Firmly On Track

via CAAI

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 (Bernama) -- The first segment of a new international standard railroad, co-financed by international donors including Malaysia, officially opened in Cambodia on Friday, a major step towards the creation of a long-awaited Pan-Asian railroad.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing US$84 million in support of the reconstruction and repair of 650 kilometres (404 miles) of rail stretching from Cambodia's border with Thailand, through the capital city of Phnom Penh, and southward to Sihanoukville, the country's main seaport.

Australia provided the additional US$21.5 million while Malaysia contributed 106 km (66 miles) of track worth US$2.8 million in support of the US$141 million project.

ADB said in a statement today that Cambodia allocated US$20.3 million for the rail project while the other co-financiers include the OPEC Fund for International Development with US$13 million.

Freight service has commenced along a 120km (75 mile) stretch of rail between Phnom Penh and Touk Meas, near the Vietnamese border. The entire rail line is scheduled to be operational by 2013.

"We are on the cusp of a contiguous Iron Silk Road stretching from Singapore to Scotland," said Kunio Senga, director-general of ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

"This possibility has been talked about for decades, but today the dream has finally taken a big step towards becoming a reality."

Decades of conflict have left Cambodia's railroad in serious disrepair, with rail traffic slowly declining to a trickle.

In some parts of the country, homemade lorries - simple, makeshift bamboo platforms powered by water-pump motors - are the main form of rail transport along the antiquated tracks.

Cambodia's less developed transportation network and the country's higher transportation costs result in higher prices for imported and locally-made goods compared to neighbouring countries.

ADB said the new railway would help lower the cost of staple commodities that poor Cambodian families relied on for sustenance.

"This new railroad represents another important step for Cambodia in overcoming its legacy of conflict," said Senga. "With better infrastructure and closer economic ties with its neighbours, Cambodians are enjoying a peace dividend more than ever before."

Once Cambodia's new railroad is ready, only one link, between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, will remain before a Pan-Asian railway is complete.

Cambodia and Vietnam have already signed an agreement to link their railways, and China is supporting a design study on a rail link from Phnom Penh to Loc Ninh, Vietnam.

The railway rehabilitation project is a vital component of the Greater Mekong Subregion's southern economic corridor - linking Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam - and is a key component of Asean's Singapore-Kunming Rail Link Project.

Toll Holdings, an Australian company, has been awarded a 30-year contract to operate and maintain the rehabilitated railway system.

Air France to start flights to Cambodian capital

via CAAI

The Associated Press
October 21, 2010


Air France says it will begin regular flights between Paris and Phnom Penh, Cambodia starting next March.

The three weekly flights between Paris and the former French protectorate will make Air France the first European air carrier to fly to Cambodia, said Khek Norinda, spokesman for the company that runs Cambodia's airports. Its two international airports are currently served only by Asian carriers.

The flights will have a connection in Bangkok and will begin March 27, 2011, Air France said in a statement Thursday.

Air France is part of the Air France-KLM group.


Associated Press writer Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia contributed to this report.

Exotissimo Announce Savings on Best Selling Essential Vietnam and Cambodia Tour

via CAAI

Friday, 22 October 2010
This 12-day program is specially designed for travelers wanting to maximize time spent in Southeast Asia while achieving great value for money.

Exotissimo Travel, a leading Destination Management Company in Southeast Asia, has announced a cut-price deal on the best selling ‘Essential Vietnam and Cambodia Tour’. Drawing extensively on the company’s insider knowledge, Essential Vietnam and Cambodia showcases the best of each destination while highlighting some hidden treasures along the way.

“Our ‘Essential Tours’ offer characteristic Exo experiences, evocative of our experiential values and desire to deliver enriching travel experiences that look beyond conceived ideas of package holidays. Due to the fact that we have done extensive research on the ground in each of our destination Exotissimo can assure travelers a seamless travel experience that encompasses authentic encounters, cultural exchanges and scenic highlights”, said Group Product Manager Louise Nathan.

The 12-day Southeast Asia tour combines relaxed sightseeing to awe-inspiring sites with exploration of the many interesting towns, cities, and waterways of Vietnam and Cambodia. A great way to learn about these two neighboring countries and their compelling past and present – travelers will be immersed in cultures both old and new on this dynamic tour package.

Beginning in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, the city’s rich cultural history will be discovered by traditional cyclo before venturing down to the lively riverfront, lined with French colonial buildings, marking the first day of the tour with a memorable sunset on the hilltop temple of Wat Phnom. Continue on to majestic Siem Reap the historical and religious heart of the country and home to the mother of all temples, Angkor Watt.

Siem Reap marks the end of the Cambodia experience and first leg of the journey, the tour then continues on to the bustling Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam’s largest city and undisputed commerce capital, this is a dynamic metropolis that is currently enjoying the fruits of the country’s economic boom. As the tour progresses the deep rooted culture and traditions of the Vietnamese people will be revealed offering fascinating insights into this intriguing culture. Enjoy a day trip to the Mekong Delta where the hidden canals and colorful floating markets of the region will be explored in more depth. Visitors are generally captivated by the rustic charm of southern Vietnam, a region renowned for its laid back mentality and exotic blend of markets, farmlands and cultures.

Visit the charming town of Hoi An where the streets are laden with family ran craft shops and colonial architecture reflecting its history as a trading town, before continuing up the coastline to Hue. The tour comes to an end in the country's north, Hanoi, where travelers will discover tranquil lakes, insightful museums and bustling markets. An overnight boat trip to Halong Bay is an ideal way to complete this amazing tour on which scenic wonders are combined with a cultural twist.

TPRF Grant Provides Food for At-Risk Children in Cambodia

via CAAI

A grant of US$25,000 ensures nutritious food for over 500 children

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A grant of US$25,000 from The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF) ensures direct food aid to impoverished children living at a toxic landfill site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

This is the third TPRF grant since 2008 to Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education, health care and safety of marginalized Cambodian children whose families are trapped in persistent poverty.

An estimated 1,200 families live and work at the 100-acre Stung Meanchey landfill, scavenging through the garbage for scraps of plastic and metal to sell to nearby recycling centers. Children often work at night and are under constant threat from roving gangs and child traffickers. Domestic violence and child abuse are widely reported, as are manifest health problems resulting from malnutrition and environmental hazards.

For six years, CCF has been providing food, medical attention and education to children from destitute communities like Stung Meanchey. TPRF has helped to support their program each year since 2008. Paul Saunders, Board Chairman of CCF, writes, "Too many of Cambodia's children suffer in silence. Thanks to TPRF's commitment, CCF will continue to lead Cambodian children and their families beyond survival to a safe environment." The renewed funding by The Prem Rawat Foundation will ensure that over 500 children in CCF's Educational Centers receive the consistent and quality nutrition necessary for their development.

At CCF facilities, meals using fresh local produce, herbs, aromatics and meat are prepared on-site by experienced cooks trained in balanced nutrition and good hygiene practices. In addition, rice is distributed to 72 daycare 150 Satellite School students and their families as weekly school attendance incentives, and over 1,600 people are served nutritious subsidized meals in the Community Center Cafe each month.

TPRF's president, Linda Pascotto, observes that "TPRF is proud to support the Cambodian Children's Fund, which is making a huge difference to neglected children by offering them the chance not just to survive, but to grow up healthy and able to develop their own skills, talents and possibilities."

About The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF)

Created in 2001, TPRF promotes Prem Rawat's vision to address fundamental human needs so that people everywhere can live their lives with Dignity, Peace, and Prosperity. For more information, visit:

CAMBODIA: Rise in mine casualties delays clearance

Photo: Brendan Brady/IRIN
Landmines and UXOs continue to litter much of the Cambodian countryside

 via CAAI

PAILIN, 21 October 2010 (IRIN) - Van Theang, 41, a former soldier in Cambodia's western Pailin Province, remembers what happened in 1991: "I was walking along and hit a trip-wire. I had been told to watch out for mines but I wasn't expecting any in that particular area. This just happened a lot in those years."

Under similar circumstances, while patrolling in Oddar Meanchey Province, along the 800km Thai border north of Pailin, soldier Sim Pheat stepped on a landmine that also destroyed his leg. But it happened just last month - a reminder that these remnants of war still exact a heavy toll.

A spike in landmine casualties in May - at 50, the highest monthly count since August 2007 - underlined what government and UN officials say is the reality that Cambodia will need longer to fulfil its pledged de-mining commitment.

"Cambodia still has a big challenge in the next 10 to 15 years," Oum Phumro, secretary-general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), the government body in charge of mine clearance, told IRIN.

Some 40,000 Cambodians have been maimed by landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) since 1979. Landmine casualties have fallen dramatically, from 1,691 in 1993 to 244 last year, according to the government.

However, the rise in cases in May means 2010 is likely to be costlier than last year. From January to August, there were 207 casualties from landmines and UXOs, against 186 for the same period last year, according to Lim Chhiv, project manager of the Cambodian Mine/Explosive Remnants of War Victim Information System.

Millions cleared, millions remaining

From 1992 to 2009, some 800,000 anti-personnel mines, 19,000 anti-tank mines and 1.7 million UXOs were cleared, according to the Cambodian Mine Action Authority.

Melissa Sabatier, the UN Development Programme's mine action project manager in Cambodia, said the country's progress had been impressive.

"Previously, Cambodia had one of the highest levels of [UXO] contamination in the world, but now it has a prospering tourism sector and receives delegations from dozens of other countries affected by [UXOs] to learn from its experiences," she said.

However, as millions of explosive devices still litter the Southeast Asian nation, total clearance will take longer than expected.

Last December, Cambodia's agreement to comply with the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use of all landmines, was extended to 2019. In their request for this extension, Cambodian authorities said some 650 sqkm would require clearance over a period of 12-13 years.

Funding shortfall

"If we want to reach the goal in the next 10 years, we need more resources and funding," Phumro said. "We have a number of committed donors but the funding is starting to dry up," he said.

The shortfall, added Sabatier, is a "general trend across all sectors - and across the globe" following the worldwide economic downturn in 2008 and 2009.

According to a 2009 report by the UN, Portfolio of Mine Action Projects, there was a worldwide shortfall of nearly US$437 million for mine-clearance projects.

More than 20 years since the end of Cambodia’s decades-long conflict, landmines continue to claim the lives and limbs of innocent people. But landmine survivors are proving they can still lead full lives. View Film

High Chemical Use in Food Presents Danger: Expert

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer

Washington, DC Thursday, 21 October 2010

via CAAI
Photo: AP
Cambodian market vendor Vo Leak displays commonly sold pesticides at her stall in Siem Reap.

“Some banned agricultural chemicals are still in use among Cambodian farmers.”

Cambodia continues to use a high amount of chemicals in its crops and food supply, a leading chemist said Monday.

The chemical exposure can be dangerous, so both consumers and producers must pay more attention to the problem, Seang Huy, executive director of the Cambodian Chemical Association said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“Some banned agricultural chemicals are still in use among Cambodian farmers,” she said. “We also see some chemicals used as food additives.”

Seang Huy said some banned chemicals like some insecticides are still in use in Cambodia, even though the country has banned more than 100 of them.

However, she acknowledged that the use of natural insecticides was harder for farmers, who are under pressure to meet market demands for low-cost goods.

More education of farmers on the proper use of chemicals was needed, she said.

Minister Faces Assembly on Migrant Work Concerns

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer

Phnom Penh Thursday, 21 October 2010
via CAAI
Photo: AP
Last year, Cambodia has sent 94,564 legal workers to Thailand; 19,588 to Malaysia; 9,082 to South Korea; and 97 to Japan.

“We regard that amount as a contribution to the Cambodian government's poverty reduction policy.”

More than 120,000 Cambodian workers abroad have sent some $150 million in remittances between October 2009 and October 2010, the country's labor minister told lawmakers Thursday.

Labor Minister Vong Soth told the National Assembly that remittances had become an important part of national poverty reduction, upgrading the living conditions of families in rural areas.

He was answering a set of questions prepared by lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party. However, those lawmakers boycotted the National Assembly session Thursday, saying the president of the Assembly would not allow them to ask their questions one-by-one for the record.

A total 122,731 Cambodians were working legally abroad he said, estimating that workers sent back about half of their salaries, or about $150 million for the last fiscal year.

“We regard that amount as a contribution to the Cambodian government's poverty reduction policy,” he said.

In the past 12 months, Cambodia has sent 94,564 legal workers to Thailand; 19,588 to Malaysia; 9,082 to South Korea; and 97 to Japan, he said.

Workers in Malaysia and Thailand earn between $250 and $300 per month, compared to $600 monthly in South Korea and $900 monthly in Japan.

Earlier this year, the Labor Ministry began strengthening measures to protect migrant workers, but some have returned home with tales of abuse. Earlier this year, Indonesia banned migrant domestic workers from going to Malaysia, following reports of abuse.

Vong Soth acknowledged that his ministry had seen irregularities, including the sending of underage workers abroad, commissions for recruitment and recruiters who lacked training.

Ya Navuth, president of the CARAM organization, which helps migrant workers, said they need more protection. However, remittances do provide for better livelihoods for their families, he said.

Rights Party President Appears for Fraud Allegations

Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer

Phnom Penh Thursday, 21 October 2010

via CAAI
Photo: by Heng Reaksmey
Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha addresses reporters on Thursday morning following questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on fraud allegations

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha appeared for questioning at Phnom Penh Municipal Court Thursday morning, to answer allegations that he forged budget documents and embezzled money when he was the head of a local rights organization.

Sixteen former staff members of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, which Kem Sokha headed from 2002 to 2007, filed complaints in 2006 alleging they were cheated out of their salaries and per diem payments.

Prosecutors said in August they would begin looking into just two of those complaints, following a review of the evidence.

Kem Sokha spent two hours in questioning at the courthouse Thursday. He told reporters afterward he had shown proof of his innocence.

He accused the court of political bias, claiming that it had waited until he was in politics to pursue the case. He appealed to the court to drop the case.

Deputy court prosecutor Sok Roeun said he was now compiling both of the complaints into one case before he decides whether it is worthy of an indictment.

Chhim Phal Vorun, a former staff member for education at the center and a representative of the complainants, said he wanted Kem Sokha to “pay back” a total $900,000 in lost funds.

He alleged that the US-based International Republican Institute had provided $1 million per year in funding to the center, but that Kem Sokha had kept between 20 percent and 30 percent for himself.

IRI officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Kem Sokha told reporters Thursday that the institute had performed an audit already and found no wrongdoing.