Friday, 29 October 2010

Looking east

Cambodia has lessons to offer for Nepal's tourism


via CAAI
Siem Reap (Cambodia): After the horrendous ordeal of sending couriers back and forth over three weeks to get a South African visa recently, it was a pleasant surprise to apply for a Cambodian visa online and get it within 24 hours. Cambodia opened up again to the outside world just a decade and a half ago, but seems to have got this part of it right and now attracts two million visitors a year. Here in Nepal, we are still thinking of the magic number of one million, with Nepal Tourism Year just round the corner. If we are to ease our visitors' experiences at Immigration, it might be worth considering electronic visa systems like that of Cambodia.

You get nostalgic for the Nepal-India border while crossing over from Thailand to Cambodia. Those who think that Nepal and India should shut down the open border and implement a visa regime at the border should take a tour of this border point. Middlemen cash in by filling in Thai immigration forms and the customs folks don't complain as there is a lot of tea money to be made. Thai goods flow into Cambodia while people flow into Thailand in search of jobs. It is fascinating that there are nine casinos in the Cambodian border town of Poi Pet just for the Thais to come and gamble. Casinos are not permitted in Thailand and like in Nepal, Cambodian locals, as per law, cannot gamble. It would be interesting to see a similarly regulated border between Nepal and India. Would Nepalis line up to cross over and gamble away their savings in Indian casinos? The contrast between the ease of e-visas and the actual chaos at the 'regulated' border once more highlights the advantage of open borders.

In Cambodia, the US dollar is the preferred currency in use and the local currency, which stands at 4000 Riel to the dollar, is used only for change. With more transactions being based on plastic cards and mobile phones, what will be the future of paper money or the currency? If the Nepal-India currency peg is here to stay, maybe it is time for Nepal to consider making the Indian Rupee also legal tender here. Informal money exchanges will go out of business; informal money transfers will become formal. And if Indian tourists and investments are going to be dominant in Nepal, such an arrangement could be advantageous.

Cambodia has figured out the importance of English and, unlike its neighbour Thailand, believes that English is the language best suited to riding the wave of globalisation. Our tuk-tuk driver spoke good English and spent his evenings doing management courses. While he was waiting for us in between trips, he was reading a Kotler marketing book with a dictionary on the side. Thailand's beaches and sex industry may not be overly concerned about what's lost in translation, but there's no doubt the nation as a whole makes little effort to embrace English for the sake of non-Thais. Nepalis, like Cambodians, can't afford to neglect English, especially in the service sector. Not only does it service international clients better, but a world of global information and job markets open up.

The spectacular sights of Angkor, next to Siem Reap, draw people from round the world, and will continue to do so for years to come. We could do the same with Lumbini, which has the potential to attract millions of Buddhists. Such projects would be able to absorb the unemployed local population and open up avenues for public-private partnerships.

Cambodia also provides hope for the future of conflict-affected countries. A country battered by violence, little seen and understood in other parts of the world, has been able to rebuild quickly. Over a hundred hotels have been built in Siem Reap, which edges out Phnom Penh in terms of the pace of construction. They buy expensive electricity from Thailand, but as long as they can recover the cost from customers they are happy. Nepal has not gone through anything close to what Cambodia experienced in violence and class elimination. For all the doomsayers who see Nepal as a failed state, if a country that went through so much can be rebuilt, then there is surely a better future in store for Nepal.

PAD seeks court border MoU injunction

Published: 29/10/2010
via CAAI

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Friday filed a petition with the Central Administrative Court asking it to hold an urgent meeting to consider issuing an injunction against the approval of the 2000 memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with Cambodia.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and the cabinet are named defendants in the petition, which was filed by PAD lawyer Suwat Apaipak, spokesman Panthep Pongpuaphan and coordinator Suriyasai Katasila.

The PAD asked the court to accept the petition for consideration and issue an order for revocation of :

1. The three reports on the second meeting of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission (JBC) on June 5-7, 2000, signed by MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, as Thai chairman of the JBC.

2. The memorandum of understanding of June 14, 2000, signed by MR Sukhumbhand, in his capacity as deputy foreign affairs minister.

3. The announcement and master plan for a survey and land demarcation between Thailand and Cambodia signed on Aug 25, 2003.

4. The parliamentary resolution made on Oct 28, 2008 approving the masterplan for a survey and land demarcation signed by the two countries.

5. The cabinet resolution for the three reports on the JBC meeting to be forwarded to parliament for approval.

Mr Suwat on Thursday warned lawmakers not to vote in favour of the three reports or they would be held in violation of the law.

He said the reports are based on the 2000 MoU which recognises a French map with a scale of 1:200,000 and puts Thailand at a disadvantage.

Mr Suwat's remarks drew a strong reaction from Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondej, who said on Friday members of the House and the Senate have the right to vote for or against the reports.

Mr Prasopsuk said he did not see that doing so would be illegal because it is the duty of the legislative branch and it is the exclusive right of each lawmaker to vote according to his or her own decision.

He said the PAD has the right to rally on Nov 2, but it has no legitimacy to take legal action against MPs and senators who vote for the reports.

Singchai Thungthong, the Uthai Thani senator, said the PAD was overacting over the border issue.

He said no country in the world has a clearly-defined border line, adding that the government should not dance to the PAD's tune.

Cambodian PM Accepts Request To Probe Red Shirt Leaders Hiding In Cambodia

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Oct 29 (Bernama) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has accepted Thailand's request to investigate reports claiming that anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) 'Red Shirt' leaders with outstanding arrest warrants on terrorism are hiding on Cambodian soil, Thai News Agency (TNA) quoted acting Thai government spokesman Dr Panitan Wattanayagorn as saying.

Dr Panitan made the statement on Friday after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva met for 15 minutes with his Cambodian counterpart at the summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Hanoi, Vietnam, Thursday evening.

Hun Sen told Abhisit that he will investigate the issue, Dr Panitan said in a telephone interview to television Channel 9 (Modernine TV)'s morning news programme.

Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) earlier cited the confession of 11 men arrested in Chiang Mai on charges of being a national security threat, claiming that the Red Shirt arms trainings had been held in a Cambodian army camp.

Apart from the inquiry regarding the Red Shirt leaders' hiding place in Cambodia, the two leaders also discussed the progress of several joint projects and the management of border areas.

Dr Panitan added the Cambodian premier also expressed his concern regarding the widespread floods in Thailand which have claimed nearly a hundred lives and affected millions of people

Cambodia promises to probe arms training claim

Published: 29/10/2010
via CAAI

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has agreed to Thailand's request to investigate reports that that anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders wanted on arrest warrants for terrorism are hiding on Cambodian soil, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said on Friday.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had a 15 minute talk with Hun Sen on the sidelines of the summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi on Thursday evening, Mr Panitan said in a telephone interview with a television station in the morning.

The two leaders also discussed the progress of several joint projects and the management of border areas, he said.

Their talk went well and Hun Sen told Mr Abhisit that he will investigate the fugitive issue, according to Mr Panitan.

Mr Panitan said the Cambodian prime minister expressed his sympathy over the widespread floods in Thailand which have claimed 94 lives so far.

Earlier this month, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) cited the confessions of 11 men arrested in Chiang Mai on charges of being a national security threat, claiming that they and 28 other invidivuals underwent weapons training in the Siem Reap area.

According to the DSI, the detainees, who were arrested on Oct 2 at Doi Ku Fah resort in Mae On subdistrict, said they were recruited by UDD leaders to undertake arms training in Cambodia.

It is also widely reported that fugitive red-shirt leaders including Arisman Pongraungrong fled to Cambodia.

DSI quoted the detained suspects as saying some of the trained men were selected by Mr Arisman to be his bodyguards while he remains in Cambodia.

The Cambodian government strongly denied the allegation of red-shirt arms training, saying the matter was purely Thai internal politics.

Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, spokesman for the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), said on Thursday that Mr Arisman, who escaped prosecution on terrorism charges, entered Cambodia with a fake exit stamp from Thai immigration.

Police have already asked the foreign ministry to revoke his passport.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

UN Chief Concludes His Visit to Cambodia

Phnom Penh, October 28, 2010 AKP -- The United Nations Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon has just concluded his three-day official visit to Cambodia.

H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon together with his spouse and entourages were seen off at Phnom Penh International Airport this afternoon by Cambodian Minister of Information H.E. Khieu Kanharith and other senior government officials.

During his stay in Cambodia, he was granted a royal audience by His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia and held an official talk with Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen.

Besides, he also visited the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum (former Khmer Rouge notorious prison or S21), and the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.--AKP

(By KEO Chandara)


Prime Minister Hun Sen Leaves for Vietnam

Phnom Penh, October 28, 2010 AKP -- Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen left here this morning to attend the 17th ASEAN Summit and other related Summit to be held from October 28 to 30 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and his accompanied members were seen off at Phnom Penh International Airport by Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior and other senior government officials.

Several foreign diplomatic corps to Cambodia were also present.--AKP

(By KEO Chandara)


PM Hun Sen Meets UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon

Phnom Penh, October 28, 2010 AKP -- Cambodia’s Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen met here yesterday with the United Nations General-Secretary H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon and a number of issues had been raised and discussed during the two-hour meeting.

In the meeting, Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen informed his guest that the Cambodian-Thai conflict is not caused by the listing of the Preah Vihear Temple into the world heritage or the appointment of the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a senior economic advisor to Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, but because of the invasion of Thai military into Cambodian territory, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation who told the press conference right after the meeting.

Regarding the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen stated clearly that there will be no new case 003 to proceed to avoid the endanger of the national peace, otherwise the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal will be failed, said Minister Hor Namhong.

The case 001 was closed after the Khmer Rouge tribunal sentenced Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to 19 years in prison for the war crimes and crimes against humanity. The case 002 is in the process and going to sentence the four former Khmer Rouge leaders who are still alive including Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.

Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen asked the general secretary of the United Nations to remove the head of the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. Christopher Peschoux from Cambodia for he does not work with the Cambodian government, but he acted as a spokesman of the opposition party. If the United Nations does not remove Christopher Peschoux, the royal government of Cambodia will close of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh, said the Minister.--AKP

Mr. Ban Ki-moon is the second general secretary of the United Nations to visit Cambodia, after the first visit made by the Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali in 1993.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon is a highest level official who was received by Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, which was officially inaugurated on October 19, 2010.--AKP

(By Neou)


Air France’s Comeback with Commercial Flights to Cambodia

Phnom Penh, October 28, 2010 AKP -- Air France, one of the major airline companies in Europe, is going to launch its first commercial flight from Paris to the Kingdom of Cambodia this weekend, after more than three decades of halted operation since the 1970’s.

Air France will operate three weekly direct flights from Paris to Phnom Penh, said Nicolas Deviller, CEO of the Société Concessionaire des Aéroports (SCA) at a press conference in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

Cambodia has many places of tourist attraction, including the Angkor Wat Temple, the Capital City of Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk Province and those places draw more and more tourists from Asia, he noted, adding, “with the launch of the Air France flights, there will be more tourists from Europe to the kingdom.

At present, he said, there are 17 airline companies operating commercial flights in Cambodia: China Airlines, China Southern, Korean Air, Cambodia Angkor Air, Thai Airways, China Eastern, Eva Air, Malaysia Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Silk Air, Bangkok Air, Air Asia, Dragonair, Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Asia, Lao Airlines and Shanghai Airlines.

The route will be served by an Airbus A340 with a total capacity for 270 passengers. Air France also plans to use at a later stage the Boeing-777, increasing the capacity to 300 passengers, said Khek Norinda, Marketing and Public Relations Manager of SCA.

SCA has so far invested some USD230 millions for the investment in three airport improvement and management under a 45-year agreement (1995-2040) with the Government of Cambodia: the Phnom Penh International Airport and the airports in Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk Province, according to Khek Norinda.--AKP

(By Ravuth M.)


Cambodian Boy Receives International European Union Award

Phnom Penh, October 28, 2010 AKP -- An 8-year old Cambodian boy, On Usa has won International European Union Award in the drawing contest under the theme “Gender Balance.”

The boy whose paint was selected from almost 50,000 paints from 61 countries across the world will receive award in Brussels of Belgium on Nov. 9.

On Usa is among the 14 winners to receive a cash reward of Euro 1,000 each in Brussels next month.

There are only two countries in Asia which won the international European Union award namely Cambodia and Pakistan.--AKP

(By CHEA Vannak)


Cambodian and Malaysian Companies Joint Investment on Rice

Phnom Penh, October 28, 2010 AKP -- A local rice company of Cambodian and a Malaysian company have agreed to make a joint venture for rice export from Cambodia to Malaysia.

Scham Rice Cambodia, a Cambodian private enterprise and Bernas, a Malaysian company on October 26 signed here a joint investment to export rice from Cambodia to Malaysia.

Thanks to the fresh constructed major rice mill in Suong city, Kompong Cham province, the joint companies are expected to export rice to Malaysia from 2011, Mr. Duong Kim Lay, deputy director of Scham Rice Cambodia said.

For the first step, Bernas will invest USD 8 millions and it will increase another USD 500 millions in the next five-year period to grow rice in Kompong Thom province, he said.--AKP

(By KHAN Sophirom)

UN chief urges end to border spat

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha and Vong Sokheng

VISITING United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that he had urged Cambodia and Thailand to resolve their border dispute as soon as possible through peaceful means.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Ban said he had stressed the urgency of the matter with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thailand’s Abhisit Vejjajiva during his current Asian tour.

“We discussed these matters extensively, and I have urged them that this issue should be resolved harmoniously and peacefully through dialogue between the two leaders,” he said.

Ban said he was “encouraged” by recent meetings between the two premiers, and said that plans for a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Hanoi marked a positive development. The summit kicked off yesterday and runs until tomorrow.

“There is no reason why they cannot resolve this, because Cambodia and Thailand, as neighbouring countries, have been maintaining, traditionally, [a] very friendly [relationship],” Ban said.

“It is to the interests of those two peoples as well as to the interests of peace and harmony in this region.”


I have urged them that this issue should be resolved harmoniously and peacefully.


Ban arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday as part of a trip that will also take him to Thailand, Vietnam and China. He departed for Vietnam yesterday.

Hun Sen and Abhisit met on the sidelines of recent meetings in New York and Brussels and discussed cooperation to stave off confrontation.

The two countries have faced off along the border since the disputed Preah Vihear temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2008.

In August, Hun Sen wrote letters to the UN Security Council accusing Abhisit of violating the UN Charter, after he was quoted as saying Thailand was willing to dissolve a border-demarcation pact and use “both democratic and military means” to safeguard its sovereignty. Abhisit later claimed he had been misquoted.

Also yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen led a Cambodian delegation to Hanoi to attend the ASEAN Summit.

Sri Thamrong, a personal adviser to Hun Sen, told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport that the leaders of ASEAN would focus on the long-term integration of the 10-member bloc.

“ASEAN has made efforts to push for deeper cooperation with its partners to move towards ASEAN’s goal of successfully building an ASEAN community by 2015,” he said.

In addition, he said ASEAN member states would exchange points of view on regional issues such as climate change, disaster management, health and security.

The summit is also likely to be overshadowed by controversial elections in military-ruled Myanmar, scheduled for November 7.

Double homicide: Three held in gruesome axe murders

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

THREE suspects have been arrested in connection with this week’s murder of a 69-year-old woman and her 43-year-old daughter, whose bodies were found on Monday after having apparently been hacked with an axe in Kampong Chhnang province, officials said.

Choem Bunthoeun, provincial penal police chief, said police arrested two of the suspects on Wednesday in Samaki Meachey district’s Peam commune, and that a third was arrested while on the run in Oddar Meanchey province.

He said he was “preparing the documents” required to send the suspects – a 49-year-old woman, her 15-year-old daughter and her 20-year-old son-in-law – to Kampong Chhnang provincial court today “because they are accused of homicide”.

Police say the two victims were killed while cutting firewood near their home on Monday, and that their bodies were found in a pool of blood. Heng Touch, a neighbour, said the mother’s head and the daughter’s arms had been chopped off.

Illegal food haul: Meaty fines for pair of shop owners

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:02 Thomas Miller

TWO restaurant owners in Mondulkiri province’s Sen Monorom district have been fined more than 4 million riels (US$946) after being caught with 75 kilograms of illegal wild pig and muntjac deer meat, officials said yesterday.

Chhum Samnang, a Forestry Administration official and chief of the provincial enforcement team, one of two government entities involved in raids on the two restaurants earlier this month, said the restaurant owners knew they were breaking the law.

“They are aware of the crimes they commit as well as the provincial campaign [asking] restaurant owners, wild meat consumers, tourists and communities to ‘say no’ to wild meat and illegal wood,” he said.

Tep Ansarith of the World Wildlife Fund said “local informants” had tipped officials off about the selling of illegal meat.

A WWF press release urged more people to report violations of Cambodia’s wildlife laws: “It will be a small step for you but a large step for the animal kingdom,” it said.

Kratie man murders ex-wife then hangs self

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

A 36-YEAR-OLD man in Kratie province this week killed his ex-wife by chopping her in the head with an axe three times before hanging himself, leaving their two children parentless, government officials said yesterday.

Chan Heang, the deputy police chief in Prek Prasab district’s Prek Presab commune, where the crime occurred on Tuesday night, said the murder was witnessed by the children as well as the man’s former mother-in-law. The couple had divorced less than a month before.

After killing his ex-wife, the man hanged himself below the house.

“The police found it difficult to help them because this family lives far from others, and the people in the village wanted to help them, but they arrived too late,” Chan Heang said.

Thim Narin, Kratie provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said she was told by the victim’s mother that the man wanted to reconcile, but that the victim did not want to get back together with him.

“I think the husband felt it was hopeless that they would get back together, and that’s why he decided to kill his ex-wife and himself,” Thim Narin said.

She said the case was the first murder-suicide stemming from a domestic dispute recorded in the province this year, and that seven have been recorded dating back to 2004.

Police Blotter: 29 Oct 2010

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

Man throws knife at back of rude friend
Police arrested a 22-year-old man accused of hurling a knife at his friend in a fit of vengeful anger in Kampong Thom province’s Stung Sen town on Tuesday. Police said the suspect and the victim had begun to argue upon the suspect’s return from a trip to Thailand. As the victim was walking away, the suspect threw the knife at his back. The victim was sent to hospital. The accused claimed the suspect “was rude” to him, hence the need to throw the knife. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Cops put two and two together, arrest thief
Police arrested a 22-year-old man in Kampot town this week after he asked officers to write up a sale contract for a stolen motorbike. Police became suspicious when the suspect told them he was selling the bike for US$300, and offered them $100 to write up the contract “in a very short time”. After police questioned the suspect about his willingness to accept such a small price and the need to offload the bike swiftly, he confessed to stealing the bike from a drunken man in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district on Monday. He was sent to provincial court. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Garment worker denies accusation of rape
A 26-year-old male garment worker was arrested in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district on Tuesday on suspicion of raping a woman. Police said the man raped the woman in a rice field while she was tending to her cattle, and then threatened to kill her if what happened “became known”. The suspect denied the accusations, claiming he had simply met the woman in a rice field and had not committed any crime. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Norwegian man dies, possibly of overdose
A Norwegian man was found dead in his room at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on Wednesday. Police said a forensic examination of the corpse indicated the death was a suicide, with the man overdosing on sleeping pills. A guesthouse employee said the victim had been staying at the hotel “for nearly a week”. No reason for the suicide was reported.

Doctor dead after crash with turning tractor
A 38-year-old doctor died after running his motorbike into the back of a turning tractor in Battambang province on Tuesday. Police said the tractor was turning left, and that the doctor failed to slow down in time, colliding with the “home-made” tractor and dying instantly. The tractor and the bike were taken into police custody. Police at the scene recalled that the doctor’s wife was involved in a traffic accident last year, breaking her leg. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Tech merger: New ICT association launches

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

CAMBODIA could become a “Silicon Valley” of the ASEAN region, according to the newly elected president of Cambodia’s Information and Communication Technology Business Association.

The organisation was launched at an event at NagaWorld yesterday, under the helm of Pily Wong, country representative for Microsoft Market Development Programme Cambodia. It will facilitate a policy dialogue between the government and the private sector, particularly at the government-private sector forums, as well as contribute in-house expertise to the development of the ICT industry.

The group has already highlighted three key areas for development, including improving intellectual property rights, inter-operability and e-business standards. The new organisation will also provide networking opportunities. The ICT-BA merges the ICT Cambodia Association and the ICT Business Club of Cambodia.

Star-Cell writedown a reality check for the telecommunications sector

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:01 Steve Finch

THE only surprise related to TeliaSonera’s Monday announcement of a US$100 million writedown at Star-Cell was that the Swedish mobile firm announced its lack of goodwill in Cambodia at all.

Within the sector as a whole, this has been obvious for some time. The high level of competition in the Kingdom and extremely low level of income per user – reported to be as low as $3.5 per month – means that smaller players like TeliaSonera’s Star-Cell have struggled to hold value. At a time when the sector should be looking to consolidate, given that nine players is simply too many, this situation promises dire consequences for investors looking to get their money back.

Few of the current operators as they stand offer the opportunity for long-term profits, meaning they are, in a sense, worth the value of their assets at most – TeliaSonera is effectively admitting that the Star-Cell brand and all of the intangibles that go with it are absolutely worthless.

For any theoretical buyer of the smaller players in Cambodia’s mobile market, it is difficult to see where potential value for money lies.

A buyer already in the market would effectively be purchasing two main assets – infrastructure and the brand name – which, given the huge overlap of towers in Cambodia and the headache of accommodating old brands into new ones (especially when they are essentially worthless anyway), means the strategic reasons for an acquisition evaporate.

No doubt that is the precise reason why consolidation has not happened – no one wants to buy. Excell, the smallest operator by subscribers in Cambodia, has explicitly been seeking a “strategic investor” since around mid-2009. How many other operators in the Kingdom would sell up tomorrow if they were offered a price that reflected the value of their assets? Probably half the sector, but then there doesn’t appear to be anyone willing to buy.

That TeliaSonera publicly acknowledged its lack of goodwill is surprising because many in the sector would be afraid to admit just how little their companies are actually worth to potential buyers.

On the flip side, TeliaSonera’s announcement of a write-down is refreshing for investors given the move offers greater insight into the real value of Star-Cell.

Accounting rules FAS 141 and FAS 142, which relate to the allocation of goodwill and therefore company value, are by their very nature open to artful interpretation. How exactly do you assign monetary value to a commercial intangible? Companies can assign any value they like and in reality most usually avoid the truth.

By issuing a large number of licences, the government has effectively created a race to the bottom. Whoever has the deepest pockets will last the longest. We are still in the wait-and-see stage, but the end result is not in doubt.

Many of the remaining companies in the sector may not have been as transparent as TeliaSonera yet, but they are only kidding themselves.

The great energy question

The sun sets behind power lines in Phnom Penh last October. Photo by: Uy Nousereimony


There is a risk of electricity shortages if the power industry cannot deliver adequate new capacity as demand soars.


ENERGY statsCoverage Alliance for Rural Electrification says rural supply in Cambodia is just 12.5 percent of the population. Energy demand MIME estimates domestic demand may reach 500MW in 2011, 625MW in 2012 and and 780MW by 2013.

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:01 Steve Finch

Cambodia looks to an uncertain power future

LOCATED in a small office close to Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market, SME Renewable Energy Ltd in many ways illustrates the problems associated with generating and distributing energy in Cambodia.

The company – which imports biomass gassifiers from India that produce electricity at less than half the price of diesel generators – exists partly through necessity because the national grid is still almost nonaccessible in rural Cambodia.

Generating power by semi-combusting matter including rice husks into combustible gas, the most versatile gassifiers can switch between biomass and diesel, says Managing Director Rin Seyha. These machines therefore make an ideal upgrade from classic diesel generators.

“It’s a perfect replacement,” he says.

However, as with the Kingdom’s nascent power sector, the initial investment required is significant.

A 1.1-megawatt gassifier costs about US$450,000, the main reason SME Renewable Energy has imported only 33 machines in its six years of operation, he said, despite the backing of United States financiers that offer loans so farmers can afford the investment.

Cambodia’s rural economy is therefore caught in an energy trap. The lack of grid electricity means an expensive alternative is required if farmers are to process crops for greater profit - which usually requires milling machines and crop driers.

But with few financing options and opportunities to add value, the necessary capital cannot be generated, so too the required electricity.

Rural shortfall
Rural Cambodia therefore needs an energy boost from somewhere.

According to Belgium-based non-profit organisation Alliance for Rural Electrification, at just 12.5 percent population coverage, Cambodia’s rural electricity supply was greater only than that of Myanmar within ASEAN in 2008. Otherwise in Asia, only North Korea, Afghanistan and East Timor fared worse than Cambodia, whose national grid was all but destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era and subsequent civil war.

In terms of electricity tariffs, Cambodia charges among the highest prices in the world, according to the World Bank. Given that most generation is small-scale, decentralised and in short supply, that is hardly surprising. Biomass – wood, charcoal and biological waste – remains “the main source of energy ... for rural enterprises”, says Chailotte Nicollet, programme officer at GERES, a France-based renewable energy NGO.

Meanwhile, the country’s energy demand continues to accelerate. This year total demand reached 400MW, 50 percent more than supply, according to a March forecast by the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

Over the next few years, Cambodia’s appetite for electricity will rise 25 percent annually according to the most sober government estimates, but supply solutions remain limited.

“In the short-to-medium term, Cambodia’s options are to import energy from its neighbours, particularly Thailand and Vietnam,” said Anthony Jude, director of the Asia Development Bank’s Energy and Water Division for Southeast Asia.

Main supplier Vietnam has remained reluctant to raise exports, however, due to power shortages of its own. Despite an agreement dating back to 2000 stating that Cambodia’s neighbour would supply 200 megawatts from 2009, Hanoi only permitted 100-megawatt supply capacity by March prompting Prime Minister Hun Sen to write to the Vietnamese government to demand more.

But total domestic electricity demand in Cambodia will reach at least 500 megawatts in 2011, 625 in 2012 and over 780 by 2013, according to MIME. What happens then?

Hydropower debate
“The key challenge for Cambodia is developing its own power generation source – based on coal, gas and hydropower – coupled with the development of a national transmission and distribution system that would evacuate electricity generated from based load power plants to load centres in major cities, as well as to rural areas,” says Jude.

The first of two 100-megawatt coal plants being built in Sihanoukville was due to come online next year, said an OSK appraisal of Malaysian operator Leader Universal, with the second installment due the following year. But much bigger questions exist over power generation in the longer term.

The government has put United States energy firm Chevron under pressure to produce fossil fuels by 2012. But the real onus is on hydropower in the medium term, say analysts, and just how many of the more than 20 dams under consideration will be built?

“There is ... a risk of electricity shortages if the power industry cannot deliver adequate new capacity as demand soars,” said the latest appraisal of Cambodia’s power sector by Research and Markets last month.

Last week, the World Bank became the latest organisation to express concerns over hydropower in the region by stating it would not fund more dams on the Mekong River after a report this month by the Mekong River Commission expressed grave concerns about the social and environmental impact caused by such projects.

The MRC’s recommendation of a 10-year hiatus on the construction of all Mekong dams to allow for further studies would, in Cambodia’s case, mean a huge reduction in government projections of energy production by 2020, the year the Kingdom is aiming for 100 percent electricity coverage. Its study identifies two dams in Stung Treng province and Sambor, Kratie province, which together are scheduled to produce close to 3,600 megawatts by 2020, or around the total energy demand in Cambodia for the same year.

Essentially, MRC has suggested that these projects be put on hold. Yet all projections that Cambodia will start to export electricity in about five years are based on the best-case scenario – demand rising at just 25 percent per year and the completion of all scheduled dams on time.

“In terms of least-cost power supply, mainstream projects are most critical for the Cambodian power sector, particularly in the long term when plants are transferred to national authorities,” said the MRC report.

The next few months will see the completion of two more critical reports on Cambodian hydropower that could determine future government energy policy, say analysts.

The MRC is set to unveil its follow-up River Basin Development Plan “which will articulate the organisation’s views on the optimal development of the Mekong river basin”, the World Bank said last week.

Meanwhile, MIME is finalising a survey of hydropower potential for the Kingdom on as yet unscheduled sites following a long-term study by the Japan International Cooperation Society, the organisation’s Phnom Penh-based hydro-specialist Takanobu Shinodu said.

“There is much potential for hydropower generation in Cambodia including micro-hydro power,” he said, declining to reveal key details of the study ahead of MIME approval.

“In order to achieve sustainable development, it is important to consider the social and environmental impact in the potential sites.”

The MRC warns that more than 29,000 people would have to be resettled at the Stung Treng and Sambor sites if the dams are built, and that fish stocks would be impacted.

It therefore remains to be seen how the Cambodian government plans to balance electricity production with environmental and social concerns.

Energy Minister Suy Sem has not replied to a written request submitted in mid-September to outline Cambodia’s energy policy. This month, MIME Secretary of State Ith Praing said he was too busy to discuss the issue.

The nuclear option
Other energy options remain even less certain. Although Cambodia rejoined the International Atomic Energy Agency in November last year and this month took part in its first IAEA international meeting, participant Heng Kunleang, the director of MIME’s Energy Development Department, said on Tuesday that the Kingdom’s nuclear ambitions remain years away.

Vietnam announced plans for its own atomic programme back in 2002, but is not planning to bring its first reactor online until 2022, according to Hanoi’s energy master plan.

Vietnam – with assistance from atomic expert and long-term ally Russia – will take at least 30 years to connect atomic energy to the national grid, which makes Cambodia’s stated plans for 2020 look optimistic given a possible programme was first suggested in late 2008.

“Any country considering the development of a nuclear energy programme needs to address a number of issues,” says Jude, citing the need for technical skills in-country, a power plant blueprint, a suitable location, signing of an international nonproliferation treaty, agreements with the International Atomic Energy Association, national safety laws along with a waste-disposal plan, fuel supply, selection of appropriate technology.

“Furthermore, if a country is looking at nuclear energy to meet its demand, the national power grid would need to be strengthened to ensure reliability.”

The alternatives
In the meantime, Cambodia’s renewable energy is still in its infancy.

The country unveiled its first wind turbine in Sihanoukville as recently as January, while a $300 million solar project announced last November has made little progress since then, proposed Dutch investor Frans Marchand confirmed this month, as discussions with the government continue. He declined to offer further details.

“Renewable energy is still a new thing in Cambodia,” says Rin Seyha.

Studies have suggested the government will need as much revenue as possible to meet the cost of supplying power nationwide. An ADB report conducted three years ago found Cambodia would require $1.5 billion to gradually expand the country’s generation, transmission and distribution system, says Jude. And this “would need to be reviewed in light of cost increases over the years”, he added.

Investment analysts warn that energy supply is one of the most important challenges facing the Kingdom’s economy.

“To gain competitiveness and attract a broader range of industries Cambodia must reduce its power costs,” says Douglas Clayton, CEO of investment fund Leopard Capital.

Kids' night out

Kids from the Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Fund centre with their art that will be displayed at Hotel de la Paix.

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:00 Peter Olszewski

IT was children’s night last night at the trendy Arts lounge at Hotel de la Paix, usually reserved for a mainly adult crowd.

About 90 kids turned up for operation “I Smile” – a special night just for the little ’uns with the usual kiddie stuff like balloons and Sprite and sugar cane juice on hand, plus music performed by people with disabilities from the Khmer Independent Life Team (KILT), a landmine victims’ support NGO.

But the night was more than just a children’s party – it also marked the launch of an exhibition of paintings created by young people from Aki Ra’s Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Fund centre on the road to Banteay Srei Temple.

This particular project was initiated by Oun Savann, the deputy art curator at the Arts lounge, who has also been a volunteer teacher at the landmine centre over the past two years.

The “I Smile” theme resulted from youngsters talking about their lives; where they lived before they came to the centre, what it is like to live in the centre and what their hopes are for the future.

Purchasing a painting by the children whose works are on display will directly benefit their ongoing education and artistic endeavours. Jewellery made by KILT people will be displayed and sold as well.

Also on display at the exhibition will be the work by two “grups”; grown-ups in the form of Sasha Constable and Oun Savann.

Constable’s contribution is a series of linocuts inspired by scenes she witnessed involving disabled people, as well as the people themselves.

One linocut features a HSTAMID, which stands for a Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System; a dual sensor mine detector. It is a combination of an advanced metal detector and ground-penetrating radar, allowing the user to discriminate between metal clutter and metal that’s not to be messed with.

The image on the linocut comes from a visit Constable made to the Malai district on the border of Thailand in 2008. She said: “It was the first time I saw an HSTAMID being used by a HALO Trust deminer.”

Oun Savann has exhibited his work in Perth, Australia and in Singapore. Past exhibitions in Cambodia include work at the French Cultural Centre in Phnom Penh, Amansara Hotel and The Art House.

He currently has work on exhibition at the Art Deli in Siem Reap.

Sisters open guesthouse

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:00 Nicky McGavin

SISTERS are doing it for themselves in Siem Reap. Four young women – two Cambodian, one British and one American – have set up their own guesthouse in the Central Market area of town. At first I thought that the guesthouse name, Avie Moriya, was a cute play on Ave Maria, the title of the famous aria by Charles Gounod which was based on a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.

But the guesthouse name is a combination of the moniker of 30-year-old Dy Avie, the director of the new establishment, and her daughter’s name.

The other women involved are American Emily Meader, Briton Bryony Rice (both 21) and Cambodian Na Solina, who is 26.

Na Solina, the general manager, seems to be the glue that binds them all. She is a former manager for high-profile restaurant The Banana Leaf on Pub Street, which is where the team members first got to know one another about six months ago.

“It was just perfect timing,” explains Avie. “I was looking for something to do, and then one day, two months ago, I passed this building that was for rent. I spoke to Solina and suggested a guesthouse. She said ‘yes, we can do it’, and after that it all just came together.”

An unofficial member of the team is Jampa Devi Radmall, one of the most impressive front-of-house staff I’ve ever encountered. Her patience, thoughtfulness and attentiveness are exemplary, which is not bad at all considering that Jampa, Solina’s daughter, is only seven years old.

The guesthouse has 10 rooms, decorated with pleasant feminine touches such as plants, quilts and softly coloured furnishings. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms, air-con, a mini-bar, television and hot water.

“We’re aiming for travellers who like a bit more comfort, and a homier feel. We’re so small that we can really give a personal touch,” says Meader.

“It’s a very exciting new thing,” says Avie, “but also I’m nervous. We really want to make it go well.”

“But we’re all determined women, we can make anything work,” added Meader.

Angkor photo festival returns to former glory

From a series titled Dangerous Bangkok, to be shown in Siem Reap. ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/GETTY IMAGES

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:00 Peter Olszewski

THE Angkor Photo Festival is certainly back in action, headquartered in a funky new building provided by the well-heeled festival director, long-time local Jean-Yves Navel, on Siem Reap’s newly emerging strip, Riverside, also known as East River Road.

At present, the nerve-centre’s interior is bare and unadorned; the only furnishings are a couple of rudimentary tables, some chairs and computers. Soon it will be a riot of posters, colour, art and photos and it will be buzzing but right now, the only thing buzzing is Francoise Callier, the festival’s programme director. She’s busy, busy, busy and urgently flits from the building to the little restaurant-cum-café next door for a shot of black coffee and a fag. In between smoky drags, with typically quaint French haughtiness, she announces that she cannot take time out to discuss the highlights of this year’s festival because she is too busy actually organising this year’s event.

Mais oui, but of course.

All I need to know, she tells me, is on the festival’s website, and who’s to argue with Callier? She waves me off, saying that she has not one, but two emergencies to deal with.

Ay yes, it’s good to see that Callier is back. She’s in fine form and obviously this year’s festival in firm hands.

And certainly the rocky year that was 2009 has been dismissed with the impatient wave of a hand, gone in a puff of Callier’s smoke.

Last year, it was a case of the festival that wasn’t a festival. The shock waves of the global financial crisis had hit hard, sponsorship declined, and festival organisers were reeling.

Mid-last year, the festival’s general co-coordinator, Camille Plante, she of the seductive French femininity combined with the relentlessness of Gallic bureaucracy, quit. She posted a notice on the web that the 2009 festival had been cancelled, and then not long after cancelled her resignation and was back on the job.

There were rumours that there had been no money to pay Plante, rumours that organisers had fallen foul of Siem Reap’s civil authorities over censorship issues involving a slide show at FCC Angkor that was visible to the many Khmer people who gathered on the footpaths to watch.

None of this was either confirmed or denied by festival organisers and director Jean-Yves Navel informed The Post that, au contraire to Plante’s web post that the festival had been cancelled, the event was to proceed, although in a cut-down version.

It was all a matter of semantics. Traditionally, the Angkor Photo Festival has two components: an educational component involving serious workshops for the young photographers of tomorrow; and a festive aspect of launches, openings, parties and celebrations.

Given the demands of austerity, last year the festive side was cancelled but the workshops went ahead quite successfully.

But this year, the full show is back on the road. The workshops are there again, as is the festive component, which has been reinvigorated and ramped up. This year far more venues and locations are involved.

The 2010 expanded program, running from November 20 to November 27, includes 14 exhibitions, seven evenings of outdoor slideshows, a children’s day in a pagoda and a book launch.

As with the 2008 festival, most of the action will be centered on FCC Angkor, where the opening and closing parties will take place, as well as a number of outdoor slideshows.

Other venues range from cafés to galleries to nightspots. Venues include the Blue Pumpkin café, the Angkor Hospital for Children, the Angkor Photo Gallery on Riverside, the McDermott Gallery, the Art’s Lounge at Hotel de la Paix, the edgy Hip Hop Club and the Angkor National Museum.

A new and commendable feature this year is the expansion into outdoor venues other than the forecourt of FCC Angkor. Outdoor exhibitions will also be held at Raffles Garden, Bopha’s Terrace and the Old Market Bridge.

Holding an exhibition on the bridge is a great idea – it has a vague old-Parisian feel to it and of course it’s also a major thoroughfare, so it will help bring the festival to the people, especially Khmer people, and also help dispel the notion that the festival is just a big bash for a champagne swilling barang in-crowd.

Obviously this year’s return to its former glory marks the exciting transition of the festival into an occasion that is truly for the people.

The Phnom Penh Post will also continue its tradition of comprehensive coverage of all events at the festival as they unfold, with day-to-day reports of exhibitions set to be published during the event.

JBCF maintain win streak in The Post Mini Soccer tourney

Players from Cellcard and Beeline compete at Kidzcool. Photo Supplied

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

The Kingdom’s two popular cellphone service providers, Cellcard and Beeline, left their market rivalries on the sidelines.

They produced a highly entertaining yet combative contest in The Post Mini Soccer Tournament, hosted by the Kidzcool Children and Family Fun Village on the Chroy Changvar Peninsula.

In a late on Tuesday evening kick-off, the two new-comers to the event stood up as a good advertisement for comraderie and fair play.

A more skillful Cellcard completed a 10-3 victory over Beeline, who were far from disgraced by the margin.

Debutants ANZ Royal rounded out the day's three-match card with a 9-6 win over Kidzcool.

In a high-scoring match, JBCF proved too wily and strong for the Kingdom’s newspaper of record.

The Post found themselves on the wrong side of the equation, going down tamely 4-12 to the Table Toppers, JBCF, who stretched their unbeaten record to five games for an impressive tally of 39 goals.

The Post, who crashed to their first defeat in five games, is currently ranked second on 12 points.

Devenco with nine points and Smart with seven round out the top four in the standings.

Ban Ki-moon should condemn injustice

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:00 Sam Rainsy

Dear Editor,

The current visit to Cambodia by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon constitutes a unique opportunity to take stock of the UN legacy to Cambodia since the international body got involved in the conclusion of the Paris Agreement on Cambodia in 1991 and subsequently exercised, in the framework of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, the “powers to ensure the implementation of this Agreement, including those relating to the organization and conduct of free and fair elections and the relevant aspects of the administration of Cambodia” during the transitional period (1991-1993).

Because the foundations of a modern and democratic state were laid during that crucial transitional period, Cambodia should be grateful to the UN for its pivotal role during that nation-building chapter of its history. UNTAC’s work must be praised given the difficult environment and specific circumstances in which it was achieved. The UN legacy is, overall, definitely positive.

As a member of the Supreme National Council (representing Funcincec after then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk was appointed SNC President), I had the opportunity to work with UNTAC and its head Mr Yasushi Akashi and to realize the delicate balance they had to strike every day during the transitional period.

Cambodia would not be where it stands now without the benefit of the UN legacy.

Unfortunately, everything does not remain positive, and we have to deplore the fact that the UN legacy has been spoiled or perverted in a number of instances. This perversion relates mainly to legislation made in 1992, namely the UNTAC criminal code, which is still in force. Some provisions of the UNTAC law are being misused by the present Cambodian government to commit abuses on government critics, in violation of fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the UN during the transitional period.

Several journalists and civil society activists have been imprisoned in the last few years, and other government critics, including parliamentarians, have been forced to pay heavy fines on the basis of Article 63 of the UNTAC law on “defamation”.

No longer than last month, I was sentenced to 12 years in prison on the basis of Articles 49 and 62 of the same UNTAC law, respectively for “forgery of public document” and “disinformation”.

The government and ruling party try to justify their judicial crackdown on political opponents by claiming legitimacy from the fact they are “only using laws made under the authority of the United Nations” nearly 20 years ago .

In fact, those UN officers who contributed to produce that UNTAC law in 1992 would have never imagined it would be used in such a perverted manner.

To clear the UN responsibility and possibly moral conscience on the face of this perversion and travesty of justice, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should let the public here know that the UN condemns the way the Cambodian government has been trying to justify the unjustifiable by tracing back to the UN, laws that are just wrongfully interpreted and applied to conduct an unacceptable political repression.

Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament

Fighting the flames

Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:00 Pha Lina

Firefighters from Chamkarmon district take part in a training exercise led by an Australian consultant on Wednesday at Olympic Market.

Man About Town 29-10-2010

via CAAI

Friday, 29 October 2010 15:00 Peter Olszewski

Busted flat by international police
THE arrest last Friday of Nick Griffin, a British social worker and founder of Siem Reap children’s NGO Cambodia Orphan Fund, was one of the more dramatic police stings in Siem Reap and set the town buzzing.

Griffin, 53, is well-known around town. He operated the Coffee Shop as a fund-raiser in the funky downtown strip, The Lane. This was briefly open on Monday morning, but then shut again.

Griffin was also a member of such organisations as ConCERT and Skal International Siem Reap.

The drama of his arrest was heightened by the covert presence in town of a team of UK investigators from the British police division, Child Exploitation and Online Protection.

Investigators had been in town for well over a week tying up loose ends and, during the Pchum Benh weekend, they began arranging for alternative care for the kids at Griffin’s orphanage. Word of their presence slowly spread through some NGO circles and tensions mounted.

Rumours about Griffin’s impending arrest had been doing the rounds earlier this year following an overseas television report which reiterated allegations against him.

It became obvious that Griffin was under investigation again, but those who spoke to him say he simply dismissed the claims.

In June, the NGO ConCERT – an umbrella group for many local organisations – removed the orphanage from its membership following unanswered concerns about investigations under way by local NGO Action Pour Les Enfants which was, as it turns out, acting in close cooperation with the British investigation.

A distraught Lidia Linde, a director of the Cambodia Orphan Fund, flew in from Spain on Saturday and, at midday on Sunday, met with Siem Reap police to make further arrangements for the welfare of the children. She said the orphanage will continue, most probably under a new name.

Best luxury hotel award
SOFITEL Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort was named the Best Luxury Hotel in Cambodia by the Tourism Alliance Awards during the sixth International Travel Expo in Ho Chi Minh City which ran from September 30 until October 2.

The award was formally presented by the chairman of Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. As always, the awards were co-hosted by the Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism; the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City; the Ministry of Tourism Cambodia; and the Laos National Tourism Administration.

Ban Ki-moon Ended His Visit in Cambodia

Activist beaten unconscious

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Suong Sophorn, a Boueng Kak lake resident, is taken into custody by riot poilice after being badly beaten on Thursday during a protest near the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital. Resdients were demonstrating in the hope that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would intervene on their behalf.

via CAAI

Thursday, 28 October 2010 22:04 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Cheang Sokha

 A LOCAL activist attempting to deliver a petition to Ban Ki-moon was beaten unconscious and arrested yesterday by police and military police, as the United Nations secretary general concluded his three-day visit to the Kingdom.

Suong Sophorn, 23, was dragged into a police car before being treated at Daun Penh district referral hospital following an incident in which six others were injured.

They were part of a group of roughly 100 people who gathered outside the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital during Ban’s visit to the facility to protest against their impending eviction from the capital’s Boeung Kak lakeside.

“They hit me in the head with a walkie-talkie, punched me in the face several times, hit me with an electric baton and then pulled me into the car by the throat,” Suong Sophorn said yesterday.

He said he was released from custody after signing a pledge to stop leading protests.

Rights groups estimate that more than 4,000 families will be evicted to make room for a 133-hectare development owned by a ruling party senator.

Daun Penh deputy governor Sok Penhvuth denied that police had used force against the protesters.

“Suong Sophorn pushed the authorities and then hit his head against the police car door,” Sok Penhvuth said. “No one hit or arrested him – the police just helped him get treatment.”

The incident came a day after Prime Minister Hun Sen asked Ban to remove Christophe Peschoux, the longtime country director of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and shut the OHCHR offices in Cambodia.

“What further indication is required that a UN human rights office is needed in Cambodia if the police are willing to beat a young protester unconscious during a visit by the highest-ranking UN official?” said John Coughlan, a legal consultant at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

Ban stresses KR tribunal’s importance (Updated)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, third left, is received by Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, right, upon his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. Ban arrived Tuesday for a three-day official visit to Cambodia as part of his four-country Asian tour.

via CAAI

Thursday, 28 October 2010 17:18 Cheang Sokha

Yves Sorokobi, a spokesman for the secretary general, said it was not up to Hun Sen to make decisions on UN staffing.

“Pulling staff out of a particular country or not is a matter of internal personnel issues, it’s a matter for the secretary general to decide,” Sorokobi said. “In the meantime, we fully stand by the work of the human rights commissioner and by her representatives around the world, including here.”

Soroki said the office’s work in Cambodia was a matter of “bilateral cooperation” and that Ban would consider Hun Sen’s request to close the office “in due course”.

Peschoux said on Wednesday that his office was “discussing the matter internally” and could not comment further.

During meetings with Ban on Wednesday, Hun Sen also informed the UN head that the government would not allow the pending investigations in the third and fourth cases at the Khmer Rouge tribunal to move to trial. Following a tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum yesterday, Ban responded to these comments, affirming the importance of the court’s independence.

“This is an international judicial process, so this is a decision to be made by the court,” Ban said. He addded that he had engaged in multiple discussions of the issue with Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An over the course of his trip.

“I can tell you that the government of Cambodia is committed to completion of process, and the United Nations will discuss this matter with the international community, particularly donors,” Ban said.

The Open Society Justice Initiative called Hun Sen’s comments “an unacceptable attempt to strangle the court”.

“Hun Sen has just raised the stakes for the court dramatically,” OSJI Executive Director James A Goldston said in a statement. “The tribunal has no choice but to proceed expeditiously with Cases 003/004 to establish that it does not take orders from the government.”

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith yesterday denied that Hun Sen had interfered with the court, but reiterated concerns about the potentially destabilising effects of Cases 003 and 004. Nevertheless, he also suggested that the cases could be handled by the domestic court system, rather than the UN-backed tribunal, in an effort to save money.

“At the moment, the expenses of the court are much more than those for the Ministry of Justice for a whole year,” Khieu Kanharith said. “Samdech [Hun Sen] thought that Cases 001 and 002 were enough for the Cambodian staff to get procedural experience, so that’s why Samdech wants to transfer the other cases to other courts.”

Donors have approved a US$87 million budget for the tribunal’s operations this year and next year. The court’s international side faces a $30 million funding shortfall for next year, while the national side needs an additional $9 million, according to the OSJI.

In remarks delivered following his tour of Tuol Sleng, Ban praised the court and the Kingdom for attempting to address the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period.

“Your courage sends a powerful message to the world that there can be no impunity, that crimes against humanity shall not go unpunished,” Ban said.