Monday, 8 November 2010

Myanmar goes to polls (Updated)

Photo by: REUTERS
A woman casts her ballot at the Sittwe polling station in Rakhine state yesterday. Myanmar voted in its first election in 20 years in a well-orchestrated exercise that assures army-backed parties an easy win.

via CAAI

Sunday, 07 November 2010 19:51 AFP

Myanmar has voted in its first election in 20 years as complaints of intimidation added to fears the poll was a sham to create a facade of democracy after decades of iron-fisted military rule.
Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi remained locked up and two pro-junta parties were together fielding about two-thirds of the total candidates, leaving the splintered opposition little chance of success.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi swept her party to power in 1990 but the result was never recognised by the ruling generals.

She has been detained for most of the past 20 years and supported a boycott of the election.

Some saw the poll as a small step towards democracy after almost five decades of autocratic rule, with opposition parties finally set to get a voice in parliament.

Despite the generals’ unpopularity, their Union Solidarity and Development Party appears secure, helped by huge financial and campaigning advantages and a climate of fear.

In many constituencies the poll was a two-horse race between the USDP and the National Unity Party, the successor to late dictator Ne Win’s party and closely aligned with the military.

A quarter of the seats in the two-chamber national parliament and regional legislatures are reserved for military appointees whatever the outcome. It is unclear when the results will be announced.

Two opposition parties accused the USDP – formed by ministers who retired from the military in April – of illegally collecting advance ballots.

“My sense is that there were certainly cases of intimidation,” said Britain’s ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Heyn, who expressed concern about the many anecdotal reports of advance voting irregularities. These votes are very open to abuses.”

The National Democratic Force, created by former members of Suu Kyi’s disbanded party, said some people complained they were told by the USDP there was no need to vote as their ballots had already been collected.

NDF leader Khin Maung Swe said his party was optimistic about its prospects in those areas where it was standing, with queues forming at some polling stations, which closed at 4pm. “I heard they voted mostly for the bamboo hat,” he said, referring to his party’s logo.

More than 29 million people were eligible to vote, but it was uncertain how many would actually cast ballots in the impoverished nation of about 50 million that runs from the mountainous Kachin state in the north, bordering China, to the southern coast on the Andaman Sea.

“I don’t know about any of the parties. I will vote how my mother tells me,” said Myo Zaw, a 22-year-old newspaper delivery man. AFP

Ice makers warm to training (Updated)

Photo by: AFP
A Cambodian worker sews at a factory in Sihanouk province. Experts think the industry may benefit from a weakened dollar

via CAAI

Sunday, 07 November 2010 19:43 Soeun Say

Ice and bottled water manufacturers have called for government advice to help strengthen the sector, highlighting the need for professional knowledge to improve quality.
A lack of skilled industry professionals together with the high cost of utilities were concerns for a group business people, officials and development workers who took part in a tour of Phnom Penh factories at the weekend.

Dang Heng, business service coordinator for private sector promotion at German development agency GTZ, said there were now 650 ice and drinking water enterprises in Cambodia, but only five percent had been accepted as meeting GTZ quality standards.

Dr Davin Uy, of the Food Industries and Biotechnology Institute of Technology of Cambodia, who helps GTZ and the government, warned that bad quality ice and water could lead to diarrhea, stomach ache, colds and headaches. He pointed to factory cleanliness and water filtration as key issues in the production line.

Manufacturers interviewed by the Post on Saturday were united in expressing a desire to improve standards and acknowledged the importance of quality in the market.

Khim Nary, owner of ice company Pop Ice Enterprise, said that her Tuol Kork district factory opened more than 20 years ago.

Although she sells ice to local restaurants, hotel and clubs, the facility lacks professional skills in order to improve products – for instance by keeping ice at low temperatures for longer amounts of time to prevent melting – and therefore widen business opportunities.

“We need more professional skills and advice from the government and NGOs to improve our business,” she said.

Fellow ice manufacturer Chea Sok, owner of Daun Keo City Enterprise, from Takeo province, complained that Vietnamese ice imports were sold cheaply at market due to the lower production costs abroad. He warned that 18 factories in Takeo faced bankruptcy.

“We’re still facing lack of professional skills,” he said. “But we’re focusing on good quality as the main point for competition.”

While Choun Sokha Phu, vice director of VESA Drinking Water, located in Takhmao town, Kandal province, agreed that some in the sector lacked adequate budgets and skills to improve ice and water production.

However, help is on the way courtesy of the government and development groups – such as GTZ – which hope to improve standards.

“We will train them to improve in order to compete with neighbouring countries,” said GTZ's Dang Heng.

Klot Sokha, deputy director of the technical department at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that the ministry’s goal was to establish a technical committee to help skills training.
Production knowledge, he said, had traditionally been passed down through family lines.

Heng Heang, chairman of Phnom Penh Small and Medium Industry Association, added: “If we help SMEs, it will reduce poverty.”

Dollar dip may have benefits (Updated)

Photo by: AFP
A Cambodian worker sews at a factory in Sihanouk province. Experts think the industry may benefit from a weakened dollar.

via CAAI

Sunday, 07 November 2010 19:36 Jeremy Mullins

Cambodia’s garment industry stands to benefit from the declining value of the United States dollar, according to Jayant Menon, principal economist at the Asian Development Bank’s Office of Regional Economic Integration.

The riel has strengthened against the dollar since an announcement last Wednesday that America’s Federal Reserve would buy up Treasury debt at a rate of around US$75 billion per month to the end of June, bolstering the struggling United States economy by $600 billion.

National Bank of Cambodia statistics show the riel strengthened in value by about two percent from Monday to Friday last week, trading at 4,134 riel against the greenback at the end of the working week.

Money changers near Phnom Penh’s Central Market on Sunday were buying one US dollar for 4,060 riel in some instances.

Jayant Menon said the Cambodian garment industry in particular could benefit from the strengthening riel.

“Since the US dollar is Cambodia’s de facto currency, this implies that for exports, both domestic costs and international receipts are determined in US dollars,” he said.

For the Kingdom’s competitors, many received payments in dollars, but paid all domestic costs in the local currencies – which would likely strengthen as the greenback lost value, he said.

“This effect could be particularly important for Cambodia’s clothing exports,” he said.

The declining value of the dollar against most currencies including the riel could also contribute to the “dedollarisation” of the Cambodian economy in the longer run, according to Menon, as “its [US dollar] status as a reliable store of value is likely to be eroded”.

However, he emphasised there were a number of other options besides the dollar for Cambodians to hold savings, such as baht, yuan or gold, and “that the real solution still lies with improving overall confidence of the riel”.

But Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia Secretary General Ken Loo said there would likely be little immediate impact from the latest United States stimulus package, as most competing nations were "selling [garments] in US dollars anyways".

Murder she wrote at Freedom Park

via CAAI

Sunday, 07 November 2010 19:33 Meas Sokchea

0diggsdigg Share The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association has said he plans to screen a controversial documentary about murdered trade unionist Chea Vichea at the city’s newly-opened “Freedom Park”.

Who Killed Chea Vichea?, a 2009 film suggesting the outspoken Free Trade Union leader was killed for his activism, has been barred from being screened publicly in Cambodia, but CITA President Rong Chhun said he would attempt to screen it after Independence Day.

“We’re showing this film because we want people to know who killed Chea Vichea,” he said. “We want the government to investigate this case and punish the killer.”

Two suspects, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, were tried and convicted for Chea Vichea’s 2004 murder, though their convictions were later overturned. Government officials say investigations are ongoing.

Rong Chhun said he would inform City Hall about the screening on Wednesday. Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema, who inaugurated the Freedom Park last week, could not be reached for comment.

Royalists to unite for congress (Updated)

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prince Norodom Ranariddh greets members of the media after announcing his retirement from politics in 2008.

via CAAI

Sunday, 07 November 2010 19:20 Meas Sokchea

The Kingdom’s two royalist parties will hold a joint congress early next year, marking a key milestone in the planned reunification of the groups ahead of commune elections in 2012.
Funcinpec President Keo Puth Reaksmey said his party and the Nationalist Party, formerly the Norodom Ranariddh Party, will hold the congress in February or March in a bid to cement their merger.

He said the new party, which will go under the Funcinpec banner, would also make an effort to attract past members of the royalist movement, many of whom have defected to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and other opposition groups since Funcinpec split in acrimony in 2006.

It is still uncertain whether Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Funcinpec’s former president, will return from retirement to lead the party. The veteran politician retired from politics in October 2008.

“Everything is up to Samdech Krompreah’s decision as to whether or not [he] will re-enter politics,” Keo Puth Reaksmey said.

“We are going ahead. If the prince is with us, we will get along better, but we will still go ahead without the prince.”

Nationalist Party spokesman Pen Sangha said both parties’ leaders planned to formally invite Prince Ranariddh to head the new-look Funcinpec.

“So far we have not written an official letter to invite the prince. We should be optimistic and must have a step-by-step strategy in place,” Pen Sangha said.

Since romping to victory in United Nations-backed elections in 1993, the royalist movement has experienced a steady decline at the polls.

In 2006, Prince Ranariddh was removed as Funcinpec party president in connection with accusations he embezzled funds from the sale of party property. The self-named breakaway party he formed, renamed the Nationalist Party earlier this year, has fared no better. The two parties won just four seats between them in the 2008 elections.

But Prince Ranariddh’s spokesman Chea Chanboribo dismissed speculation the veteran politician, currently an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni, is planning a political comeback.

He also criticised Funcinpec officials for driving the Prince out in 2006, and now expecting favours from him as they seek to resurrect the party’s political fortunes.

“Funcinpec’s [officials] have criticised the prince for leading the party down and down until they fired the prince as party president. Now when they are stuck, they call for the prince, but everything is too late,” Chea Chanboribo said.

“It is better that the Prince stays neutral and works for humanity and for the nation.”

Chinese to study four dams (Updated)

Photo by: AFP
Prime Minister Hun Sen and Finance Minister Keat Chhon at the opening of the first stage of Kampot's Kamchay dam in late 2008.

via CAAI

Sunday, 07 November 2010 17:27 Cheang Sokha

related coverage
Cambodia 'most exposed' to dams threat

Cambodia and China have signed an agreement to study the feasibility of four proposed hydropower dam projects amid fresh concerns about the long-term environmental impact of Mekong dam developments.

Suy Sem, the Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, said the agreement was one of 16 signed on Thursday during meetings with a visiting Chinese delegation led by Wu Bangguo, chairman of the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress. .

“The signing of these four hydropower dams will allow the companies to study the feasibility of the projects,” he said after the meeting.

“We will discuss this in detail after the completion of the studies, and then will allow for the construction.”

The agreement will pave the way for two state-owned Chinese firms – China Huadian Corporation and China Guodian Corporation – to conduct feasibility studies of the proposed 108-megawatt Cheng Areng dam in Koh Kong and the Srepok III (340 megawatts) and Srepok IV (230 megawatts) projects in Stung Treng.

The firms will also study the feasibility of the Sambor Dam project, planned for the Mekong mainstream in Kratie province, and decide whether the government should proceed with a 460-megawatt option or a more complex 2,600-megawatt design for the site.

Suy Sem did not reveal the total cost of the four proposed projects, but said construction could cost as much as US$1.5 million per megawatt of generating power.

The announcement comes on the heels of a recent report, commissioned by the Mekong River Commission, which argues that dam developments slated for the Mekong mainstream could have far-reaching impacts on Cambodia.

The report claimed more than one million fisheries-dependent people were at risk from the impact of Mekong dams.

The Sambor project, coupled with another proposed dam on the Mekong in Stung Treng, could create an “extreme crisis” for the populations of affected provinces, the report said.
Due to the likely impacts, it recommended a 10-year delay to dam constructions on the river.

Chith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said he was concerned by the news of the four new dam studies, adding that such research was only valuable if conducted independently.

“The evaluators of the environmental impact assessments should be experts from an independent organisation,” he said. “The government should clearly monitor the documents of the feasibility studies before giving permission for the construction of the dams.”

Suy Sem said the Chinese feasibility studies would determine the impact of the dams and play a role in whether they go ahead. “If we figure out that there are serious impacts, then we will not allow the constructions,” he said.

Suy Sem said five hydroelectricity dams are currently under construction in Cambodia, all by Chinese state power companies. Huadian Corp has already been contracted to construct the US$412 million Stung Russey Chrum Krom dam in Koh Kong province.

OSK plans to open 2 branches a year in Cambodia

via CAAI

By Rupinder Singh
Published: 2010/11/08

OSK Holdings Bhd (5053) wants to expand its presence in Cambodia with plans to open at least two new branches a year and introduce services like electronic banking and Internet banking, says a company executive.

OSK owns a commercial bank called OSK Indochina Bank Ltd in Cambodia with eight branches in five provinces.

"We are already in the first and second tier cities ... so our focus would be in expanding to third tier cities," said OSK Indochina chief operating officer and country head Lim Loong Seng.

To fast track its expansion, the company aims to set up more automatic teller machines (ATM) and launch its Internet banking later next year.
"We will be expanding our ATM network and install them at higher traffic areas such as shopping malls and factories. We are already embarking on that," Lim told the media after the official opening of four new branches in an event in Siem Reap, Cambodia on Friday.

With each new branch costing between US$400,000 to US$500,000 (RM1.2 million to RM1.5 million) to set up, Lim said, ATMs would be a cheaper way to reach the masses.

OSK Indochina branches are equipped with Cambodia's first ever 24-hour full-function ATM, offering cash deposit, cash withdrawal, cheque deposit, and cross currency withdrawal facilities, all in one.

Lim said Cambodia represents an enormous opportunity given that less than 10 per cent of the 14 million population has a bank account.

"All we need is basically 5 per cent of the 12.6 million people who don't have a bank account. That is sizeable," he said.

Meanwhile, OSK Indochina's four new branches are located one each in the province of Battambang, Kampong Cham, Preah Sihanouk and Siem Reap.

"With the addition of the four new branches, we will be able to reach out to serve a wider section of the Cambodian population and businesses especially people in the provinces," he said.

OSK Indochina has presence in five of Cambodia's provinces.

The bank recorded a maiden profit of RM234,000 for the first six months to June 30 2010.

OSK Investment Bank group managing director and chief executive officer Ong Leong Huat expects at least a 5 per cent return on investment from OSK Indochina next year.

The group's subsidiary, OSK Indochina Securities Ltd, was recently granted a licence to undertake securities underwriting business, securities dealing business, securities brokerage business and investment advisory business in Cambodia.

Ong said Cambodia holds great potential for the OSK group, more so with the opening of its capital market next year which is expected to spur foreign direct investment and the economy.

Faldo to Create Two New Courses in Cambodia’s Capital

via CAAI
Published by Ozgur Tore

Sunday, 07 November 2010

Sir Nick Faldo was in the Kingdom of Cambodia recently to visit the site for his next golf course design project at the Vattanac Golf Resort in Phnom Penh.

Vattanac Properties has appointed Faldo Design to create two 18-hole championship-standard golf courses that will sit at the heart of a luxury resort 15km from the centre of Cambodia's capital.

Six-time Major winner Faldo was welcomed to the country by Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, before heading to the site to work on the golf courses' preliminary designs.

"It was an honour to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and I thank him for his gracious welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia," said Faldo. "This is a large site and offers real flexibility to create two completely contrasting golf courses. We believe the Vattanac Golf Resort in Phnom Penh will complement our existing championship course at Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap and further raise the standard for golf in Cambodia, attracting more visitors to the country from across the region."

Sam Ang Vattanac, Executive Director of Vattanac Properties, said: "Partnering with Faldo Design is a match made in heaven. We are a premier property developer and aim to set new benchmarks for quality and innovation in Cambodia. The development of the Vattanac Golf Resort will be another testimony to this.

"We strongly believe in the Faldo Design principles, which will bring out the best that our development has to offer. With a good location and design, I am positive that the golfing landscape and standard will be remarkably transformed. I look forward to the exciting future!"

The Vattanac Golf Resort will include at least one luxury hotel, select private residences and a number of sports, recreation and entertainment facilities that will cater for all the family. It is also intended that the courses will set a benchmark for environmentally responsible and sustainable design in the region.

The Vattanac Golf Resort is the latest addition to a portfolio that includes over 25 Faldo Design projects open for play in 17 different countries across the globe. It is the fifth new project to be undertaken by Faldo Design in Asia within the past 18 months, with work already underway on other sites in India, Vietnam and China.

For more details on Faldo Design visit  

Evaluation of an Influenza-Like Illness case definition in the diagnosis of influenza among patients with acute febrile illness in Cambodia

via CAAI

BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:320doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-320
Published: 7 November 2010

Abstract (provisional)

BackgroundInfluenza-like illness (ILI) is often defined as fever (greater than or equal to 38.0 degrees Celsius) with cough or sore throat. In this study, we tested the sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of this case definition in a Cambodia patient population.

MethodsPassive clinic-based surveillance was established at nine healthcare centers to identify the causes of acute undifferentiated fever in patients aged two years and older seeking treatment. Fever was defined as tympanic membrane temperature greater than or equal to 38 degrees Celsius lasting more than 24 hours and less than 10 days. Influenza virus infections were identified by polymerase chain reaction.

ResultsFrom July 2008 to December 2008, 2,639 patients were enrolled. From 884 (33%) patients positive for influenza, 652 presented with ILI and 232 acute fever patients presented without ILI. Analysis by age group identified no significant differences between influenza positive patients from the two groups. Positive predictive values (PPVs) varied greatly during the course of the influenza season and among age groups.

ConclusionThe ILI case definition can be used to identify a significant percentage of patients with influenza infection during the influenza season in Cambodia, assisting healthcare providers in its diagnosis and treatment. However, testing samples based on the criteria of fever alone increased our case detection by 34%.

New Swedish Embassy in Cambodia

The Embassy’s overall mission is to strengthen the Swedish presence in Cambodia and to deepen and broaden the relations between our two countries. The Embassy will focus on development co-operation and political and trade related issues, including human rights.

via CAAI

07.11.2010 | news Newsdesk

The section for development co-operation in Phnom Penh was in August 2010 upgraded to an Embassy. Anne Höglund has been appointed as new Ambassador. She will present her credentials to Cambodia’s King Sihamoni on 12 November.

The Swedish government decided in April this year to open Embassies in a number of countries where Sweden has a substantial development co-operation.

The Embassy’s overall mission is to strengthen the Swedish presence in Cambodia and to deepen and broaden the relations between our two countries. The Embassy will focus on development co-operation and political and trade related issues, including human rights.