Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The US Loses Out to China in Cambodia

via CAAI

Written by Sam Campbell
Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Beijing offer of no-strings aid to a corrupt administration pays off

Hillary Clinton's two-day visit to Cambodia Oct 30-Nov 1 could be seen as touching base with an old ally and building links with a future partner. But under the surface a battle for influence is being waged between the US and China in Cambodia, a fight Uncle Sam is unlikely to win.

Cambodia is unique in its dependency on aid, something that countries wanting to influence the kingdom have capitalized on. Since the 1992-3 era of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, literally billions of aid dollars have flowed into Cambodia. Donors in June pledged US$1.1 billion for the coming year, up from last year's pledge of US$950 million.

Cambodia has been happy to receive aid, for the most part–basic services like health care and education are still reliant on donor funds, yet schools and hospitals routinely bear the name of high-ranking Cambodians who are happy to take the credit for Cambodia's rapid development (the head of the Cambodian Red Cross, Hun Sen's formidable wife Bun Rany, is a good example)

The US has been one of the main players in the aid game, both through small NGOs and the US Agency for International Development, which funds a wide range of democracy and governance activities.

Yet rights issues, governance, and in particular corruption, remain pressing problems, and some question how much improvement has been made. Attempts to chastise Cambodia over the snail's pace of reforms have ended badly – US ambassador Carol Rodley was blasted last year for remarking that corruption costs Cambodia US$500 million annually, just one of many Western critics slapped down by the Cambodian government.

As regards aid, the contrast between Washington's (and the West's) blustering moralizing and Beijing's circumspect mercantilism is striking.

Whereas Western aid comes with often-unpalatable conditions or aims, China has spent prolifically on high-profile, 'no-strings-attached' items like bridges, roads and dams, or has simply doled out cash. The imposing US$49 million Council of Ministers (Cambodian cabinet) building in central Phnom Penh is a notable example of recent Chinese largesse. Loans associated with these comparatively low-cost infrastructure projects can also be cancelled upon maturity, earning China further plaudits.

To Cambodian leaders perched high atop teetering patronage networks, efforts to promote transparency and accountability can look like attempts to undermine support and stability. By contrast, few risks are associated with infrastructure.

US military assistance has been much more warmly received, both for the concrete items donated and for the opportunity to posture with the world's mightiest military, the latter motivation not to be underestimated in a country whose history is littered with bitter civil wars and brutal occupations. The ongoing standoff with Thailand, a country with far more modern military than Cambodia, has brought military affairs again to the forefront in Cambodia–the 2010 budget raised military spending by 23 percent.

But even US military aid is subject to conditions, as Cambodia found on April 1, when the US said it had halted shipments of surplus military vehicles to Cambodia in retaliation for the decision last December to deport 20 Uighur asylum seekers back to China. A shipment of 200 military trucks and trailers was suspended as a consequence of Cambodia's decision.

The Uighur deportation, which provoked sharp criticism from both international and local human rights groups, is a good example of the lengths Cambodia will go to please Beijing.

The US said Cambodian authorities had ignored appeals from Hillary Clinton on the Uighurs. Washington said the suspension was an appropriate response to Cambodia's "failure to live up to their international obligations." However, the measures were hardly draconian; around US$60 million worth of non-military aid remained unaffected, the US embassy confirmed.

China's gift of 257 brand new military trucks and 50,000 uniforms to the Cambodian military, announced May 2, seems aimed at sending a message to the US. Where the US sends used surplus vehicles to Cambodia, China is willing to send a greater number of new vehicles, and uniforms in addition. The aid was said to be worth US$14 million.

Cambodia's veteran Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said China's President Hu Jintao has promised more military assistance in the future. Hor Namhong said that Cambodia "did not ask" China for the military aid, but added that the Chinese "know our requirements, and promised to provide further military assistance in the future."

Cambodia is China's "good neighbor, friend and partner," China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie told Pol Saroeun, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), in Cambodia May 11.

China's choice to compete with at the US in military aid is informative. US military aid cannot go to foreign military units if the US government believes they have enjoyed impunity after committing human rights violations–just the kind of meddling Cambodia abhors. China, of course, is bound by no such niceties.

China has more recently chosen another symbolic gift to Cambodia: forgiving the 2010 Cambodian debt repayment, a move worth US$4.24 million. Significantly, the Nov 4 Chinese debt agreement came just after Hillary Clinton said the US would reopen talks on US$445 million owed to the US by Cambodia. Cambodian officials have grown impatient with the US on the debt, though they dare not risk the harsh consequences of defaulting.

US influence, then, is progressive falling further behind China's in Cambodia. On the same day the Chinese debt forgiveness was inked, Chinese officials also put pen to paper on 16 infrastructure deals–you guessed it; big ticket items like roads, bridges and railways (detailed information was not released) said to be worth US$1.6 billion. US foreign assistance to Cambodia this year totals around US$70 million.

Perhaps the US should be happy to accept a lesser role in Cambodia as, after all, US and Chinese interests and aims in Cambodia differ. While the US wants a strategic ally to counter Chinese influence, China is mostly looking to secure oil, minerals, energy, and agribusiness commodities.

The US and Cambodia celebrate 60 years of diplomatic ties this year. But that pales in comparison to the many centuries China has maintained official diplomatic relations with Cambodia.

In more recent times, China has sought to limit other countries' influence in Cambodia by patronizing a succession of Cambodian strongmen, from ex-King Norodom Sihanouk in the 1960s, the murderous Democratic Kampuchea regime (the 'Khmer Rouge') leader Pol Pot 1975-78, and since the waning of Vietnamese influence in Cambodia, Hun Sen.

Cambodia is currently one of China's closest friends in Southeast Asia, second only to Burma, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has described China as Cambodia's "most trustworthy friend." US officials probably should consider what that role involves and whether they really want to play it.

Cambodia: Buddhist monks barred from water festival to prevent undignified behaviour

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By The Associated Press (CP)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Buddhist monks in Cambodia will be banned from taking part in a water festival this month to prevent undignified behaviour such as mingling with scantily clad women and seeing couples kissing, the country's chief monk said Wednesday.

During the Nov. 20-22 Boat Racing Festival monks will be required to stay in their pagodas and watch the event on TV, said 85-year-old chief patriarch Non Gneth.

"For a monk to walk freely with crowds of ordinary people during the water festival violates the rules of the Lord Buddha," the patriarch said.

"If the monks walk freely, they will see women wearing sexy clothes or see people kissing. This violates their discipline," he said. He added some younger monks carried mobile phones equipped with cameras at last year's festival and took pictures of people dancing, drinking alcohol and kissing — all of which are not allowed, including the possession of cellphones.

Monks are supposed to adhere to a code of Buddhist precepts that include celibacy and not touching or being alone with women, not drinking alcohol and leading a contemplative lifestyle without material possessions.

A committee has been created to curb bad behaviour among monks and if any are seen mingling at the festival they will be reprimanded and sent for a re-education class before being returned to their temples, Non Gneth said.

Authorities estimate upward of 2 million people could descend on the capital, Phnom Penh, for the annual boat festival, also known as the water festival, which takes place at the end of the rainy season along the Tonle Sap River.

Some 400 wooden boats will compete in rowing contests that are part of a carnival-like atmosphere that also includes evening concerts, fireworks and late-night partying.

About 85 per cent of Cambodia's 14 million people are Buddhist. The country has 4,000 Buddhist temples and more than 50,000 monks.

Cambodian war crimes trial monitor warns of "legacy of impunity"

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Nov 10, 2010

Phnom Penh - An organization monitoring the UN-backed war crimes tribunal warned Wednesday that Phnom Penh's vow to block the trials of five more ex-Khmer Rouge cadres risks undermining the court's achievements.

The report by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), which is funded by US billionaire George Soros, said the court alone ought to decide whether to prosecute the tribunal's final two cases.

That came after Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that he would not allow the trials to go ahead, citing a risk of political instability.

Many observers regarded that as an excuse, rather than a valid reason, for barring the trials.

The OSJI said political interference risks leaving 'a legacy of impunity rather than justice in spite of (the tribunal's) accomplishments.'

'Cambodia's government has made clear its determination to abort any cases it finds politically inconvenient,' said OSJI executive director James A Goldston.

'The United Nations and international donors must ensure that any completion plan for the court guarantees fair trials and appeals in all remaining cases on its docket,' he said.

The tribunal is a hybrid UN-Cambodian structure, with local and international staff in equivalent positions throughout.

The law governing the tribunal requires staff to be independent and not to 'accept or seek any instructions from any government or any other source.'

Its mandate is to prosecute former senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement and those it considers 'most responsible' for crimes.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith has suggested that the final two cases - known as cases 003 and 004 - could be tried in Cambodian courts.

But the OSJI said that would be unacceptable because 'intense political interference of Cambodian leaders' had undermined the local courts.

Earlier this year, the tribunal sentenced Comrade Duch, the regime's security chief, to 30 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Duch's appeal will likely be heard early next year.

The court's second case, against four elderly leaders of the movement, is scheduled to start next year.

The tribunal estimates that up to 2.2 million people died during the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, mainly from execution, starvation, overwork and disease.

The movement's head, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Congratulations to Cambodia

via CAAI

November, 10 2010

HA NOI — Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and State President Nguyen Minh Triet yesterday sent a basket of flowers and a message of congratulations to Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni on the country's 57th National Day.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also sent congratulations to his counterpart, Hun Sen and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong sent similar messages to the President of the Senate, Chea Sim, and the President of the National Assembly, Heng Samrin.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem cabled a message of congratulations to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Hor Namhong. — VNS

VN, Cambodia to boost human resource training

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Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan is on a working visit to Cambodia from Nov. 5-10.

On Nov. 7, Minister Ngan had a working session with Cambodian Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Vong Sauth.

The two sides agreed to continue exchanging experiences and cooperating in improving mechanism for labour, vocational training, social welfare and human resource development.

The Vietnamese Minister paid a courtesy visit to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who praised the effectiveness of cooperation between the two ministries and asked them to boost cooperation in human resource training, especially for the agriculture sector.

Minister Ngan also paid a courtesy visit to Cambodian Standing Deputy PM Men Sam An and work with the Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Ministry.

KRT needs endgame: report

Photo by: Sovan Philong
The courtroom at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:02 James O'Toole

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal must not send its politically sensitive third and fourth cases to Cambodia’s domestic courts if it hopes to preserve fair trial standards and its own judicial legacy, the Open Society Justice Initiative says in a report set to be released today.

Government officials and Cambodian staff at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the tribunal is formally known, have expressed opposition to Cases 003 and 004, which feature five suspects whose names remained confidential. Referring these cases to domestic courts, the OSJI says, risks diminishing “not only the credibility of the referred cases but also the confidence in the application of international standards ... to the other cases before the court”.

“The Cambodian government’s continuing (and apparently successful) efforts to politically influence the ECCC make it impossible to believe that an entirely Cambodian institution could operate independently,” the report says.

The court’s “completion strategy” has been a topic of discussion for officials from the UN, the government and donor countries in recent months as they consider the court’s uncertain future beyond its second case, which is due to start some time next year.

“These discussions are actively going on at the moment,” international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said in September.

“Certainly, the motivation for that is partly to satisfy the donors that we’re not going to keep on spending their money forever, and partly also, and probably more importantly, for the government to know that the mandate of the court is going to come to an end in the not-so-distant future.”

In a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he would not allow Cases 003 and 004 to move forward due to concerns about national security. Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith later suggested that the cases could be remanded to domestic courts.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that prosecutions following Case 002 would exceed the tribunal’s mandate, which, according to a 2003 agreement between the government and the UN, limits prosecutions to “senior leaders” and those “most responsible” for crimes under Democratic Kampuchea. Additional prosecutions, if necessary, could be handled within the Cambodian judiciary, he said.

“If something’s happening, we could handle it through the local courts,” Phay Siphan said. “We understand that our agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the UN is [for Cases] 001 and 002, and we’ve learned so much from that experience.”

The OSJI argues, however, that the court’s experience has demonstrated that the Cambodian legal system alone cannot be relied upon for a fair trial.

“In view of the consistently voiced threats of political interference … there is currently no reason to believe that, absent a requirement capable of ensuring meaningful international engagement, a fully domestic successor court would be capable of conducting fair trials or of acting independently and impartially,” the report says.

Last year, international prosecutor William Smith made introductory submissions for Cases 003 and 004 to the court’s Co-Investigating Judges over opposition from Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang; in June, French Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde announced that he was moving forward with the investigations despite a lack of support from You Bunleng, his Cambodian counterpart.

In September, the two international judges in the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber recommended an investigation into alleged political interference in the work of the court, though the three Cambodian PTC judges said this was unnecessary.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said the tribunal was “planning its operations according to the current caseload it has”, including Cases 003 and 004.

“Any deviation from that would have to be initiated by the signatories to the 2003 agreement, which would be the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations leadership,” he said.

Singapore trip: Chea Sim flies out for treatment

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

Singapore trip

SENATE president Chea Sim had been sent to Singapore for emergency medical treatment after experiencing circulation problems and high blood pressure. Cambodian People’s Party senator Chea Son confirmed yesterday that the political veteran left for Singapore on Monday for treatment.

“I don’t have any information about his health condition,” Chea Son said, referring further questions to Chea Sim’s cabinet.

In early December 2009, Chea Sim, who is also president of the ruling CPP and a veteran of Cambodian politics since the 1980s, was flown to Singapore for similar treatment. Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he had no updated information about Chea Sim’s health. The 78-year-old had reportedly suffered from high blood pressure for years.

Chea Sim’s trip to Singapore prevented him from attending Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh yesterday. National Assembly president Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the ceremony, which was presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni.

Thai border negotiator steps down

via CAAI

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

THAILAND’S top border negotiator has resigned, officials said yesterday, as long-delayed border negotiations between Thailand and Cambodia remained stalled.

Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said yesterday that Vasin Teeravechyan, Thailand’s chairman of the bilateral Joint Border Committee, had stepped down from his post and
that a search was underway for a successor. Vasin’s departure, he added, would not hold up the demarcation process.

“We expect that his replacement should be appointed fairly soon, so we don’t anticipate that this would cause undue delay,” Thani said.

Senior minister Var Kimhong, Cambodia’s top border negotiator, said he felt “regret” about Vasin’s resignation.

“I have worked with my counterpart Mr Vasin for many years and we have lots of experience on border issues,” Var Kimhong said. He noted that Vasin had faced steady criticism over the course of his tenure from Thailand’s ultra-nationalist Yellow Shirt movement, the members of which had threatened to protest in Bangkok next month if the Thai parliament approved the latest border agreements.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Vasin’s departure was an “internal affair” of Thailand.

“I think his resignation will not affect the negotiations between the two countries because they were delayed even when Mr Vasin was in power,” Koy Kuong said. “The issue is whether Thailand is willing to resolve the border dispute bilaterally with Cambodia or not, and we regret that the Thai parliament dares not approve the minutes” of the JBC, he said.

JBC talks had been stalled since April last year pending approval of the latest negotiations in the Thai parliament. This approval was delayed again earlier this month when, in lieu of a vote, Thai lawmakers set up a committee to study the negotiations and report back within 30 days.

Thani said he was unsure of when the JBC agreements might be approved.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.


US lawmaker raises debt with Clinton

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

UNITED States Congressman Eni Faleomavaega raised concerns over Cambodia’s 1970s debt when he met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in American Samoa at the close of her 12-day Asian tour on Monday, Australian media reported yesterday.

“I did mention to her about the situation in Cambodia. We’ve had this ongoing debt obligation that Cambodia has accumulated for some 30 years now, but basically, we didn’t have a chance to talk about all the issues,” Faleomavaega told Radio Australia.

As a delegate representing American Samoa in the House of Representatives, Faleomavaega had no vote in Congress. But that hadn’t stopped him from pressing the government on the decades-old issue. As chair of a House subcommittee, he convened a hearing on September 30 on Cambodia’s debt, which stood at US$445 million at the end of last year. At the time, he called upon the US to “forgive or recycle Cambodia’s debt”.

While in Cambodia last week, Clinton announced that the US planned to send a “team of experts” to resolve the debt issue.

“We have agreed that the United States will send a team of experts as soon as possible to resume discussions over ways to settle this debt,” she told reporters.


Rubber firm: Kratie villagers file complaint

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 May Titthara

REPRESENTATIVES of 41 families in Kratie province yesterday filed a complaint to the provincial court accusing a rubber company of attempting to forcibly evict them from around 30 hectares of land in Snuol district’s Samraong village.

Mon Run, 45, said yesterday that the villagers had a land title and had been legally living on the disputed land since 1979. He said workers had already destroyed six houses in the village, although he did not know what kind of claim to the land the firm – which he identified as the Sovann Vuthy Company – was supposed to have.

“It is very cruel that they came to tear down villagers’ homes and forcefully evict villagers to a new place as if our life was not equal to one of a rubber tree,” he said.

Ponn Thai, 32, said the company had not given residents any notice before destroying their homes. She said she had returned from work on Wednesday last week to find that a demolition team working on behalf of the company had torn down her house.

“I nearly fainted when I saw my home was damaged and on the ground,” she said. “I was loaned [money] from my neighbour for many years for the construction of this home.”

She said company representatives had shot at residents who tried to protect their homes on “four or five” occasions, but that no one had been injured.

Sovann Vuthy Company representatives could not be reach for comment yesterday but district governor Ear Saphum said the company was in 2009 granted a 6,000 hectare land concession to be used as a rubber plantation.

He said that the land the 41 families were living on was part of that concession, but noted that the company would compensate villagers for any farm or residential land they were evicted from.

“The company has a policy to provide them with new land because they have 2,000 hectares [to use as] compensation, so they will not lose their land,” he said.

He said that, to date, the company had only destroyed one house in the village.

Military officials accused of beatings

via CAAI

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

A MAN in Banteay Meanchey province has filed a complaint with local rights group Adhoc, accusing military police of beating him and his family and stealing 1 million riels (US$240).

Ny Thea, 35, said he was travelling with his wife and brother to Pailin to visit his mother on Sunday, when a car rammed into him to force him to stop.

“I didn’t stop because I thought they were robbers,” he said, noting that the driver was not wearing a military uniform.

He said he kept driving until military police blocked the road and fired several shots into the air. He said when he stopped the car, his wife and brother attempted to flee with a bag containing 7.4 million riels.

“They then fought my wife and brother, and they beat me unconscious,” he said.

When his brother went to retrieve the bag afterwards, he said, 1 million riels was missing.

Srouy Pen, chief of the provinicial military serious crimes bureau, denied the charges.

“We blocked the car because we received information from provincial police that they hit another car and drove away,” he said. “We can sue them for wrongly accusing us.”

Laos faces up to war’s legacy

Photo by: AFP
Laotian officials stand among pink bags marking the location of unexploded cluster bombs before their controlled demolition in the country’s Xieng Khuang province.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Ian Timberlake

LAOS faced a major challenge in tackling the deadly legacy of wartime bombs, the country’s President Choummaly Sayasone said yesterday at a landmark conference aiming to speed the elimination of unexploded munitions.

“The Lao PDR is one of the most affected countries in the world by cluster munitions,” he said in a speech opening the first meeting of states that are party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The pact, which became international law on August 1, bans cluster bombs and entitles countries affected by them to financial help.

“Given [the] large scale of unexploded ordnance contamination, clearance and addressing its impacts on people’s life remain a significant challenge for our national development and poverty reduction,” Sayasone said, according to a prepared translation of his remarks.

“Against this backdrop, the Lao PDR needs to seek continued support from the international community.”

Christine Beerli, vice president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told reporters that the experience of Laos was “a daily reminder of why we must ensure that such weapons are never used again”.

Laos’ National Regulatory Authority, which coordinates work on unexploded ordnance, says the country is the most heavily bombed nation on earth per capita, after the war in neighbouring Vietnam spilled over between 1964 and 1973.

Among the weapons dropped were 270 million cluster bomblets, which had an average failure rate of 30 percent, meaning that an estimated tens of millions of them remained scattered across the country, the NRA said.

Cambodia, too, was heavily affected by wartime bombing, with the United States dropping at least 26 million cluster sub-munitions on the country, according to the 2010 Cluster Munitions Monitor report. The report estimates that between 1.9 million and 5.8 million cluster munition remnants remain unexploded in Cambodia.

Launched from the ground or dropped from the air, cluster bombs split open before impact to scatter multiple bomblets over a wide area. Many fail to explode and can lie hidden for decades, posing a threat to unsuspecting farmers and children.

More than 1,000 government and military officials, charity workers and bomb victims, some of whom arrived in wheelchairs, have gathered for the four-day meeting in Vientiane. Hundreds of school children waving flowers lined the road to the theatre where the event opened. Sayasone said the meeting is “of historical significance” towards implementation of the charter.

Norway was the first country to sign the convention, followed by Laos. A total of 108 nations have signed the convention and more than 40 have ratified, but Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand are among those that have yet to sign.

Cambodia has sent a delegation to this week’s meeting, but has so far indicated no intention to sign the convention, despite playing an instrumental role in drafting the convention.

Leng Sochea, deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Mines Action Authority, said yesterday that the government was still studying what effect the convention could have on Cambodia’s defence capabilities.

He said, however, that “without signing the convention, we will still eliminate these kinds of cluster munitions when we find them”.

Thoummy Silamphan, a 22-year-old victim of unexploded munitions strongly urged governments like Cambodia to join the convention. Speaking at the opening cermony, he recounted how aged just eight a bomblet blew off his left hand as he dug for edible bamboo shoots on the way home from school in rural Laos.

“We need your cooperation and for everyone to join together to help UXO victims,” Thoummy said.


Poor hygiene still a mounting problem

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Rann Reuy

FEWER people in Cambodia have access to adequate sanitation facilities than in any other Southeast Asian country, according to a new report from the Ministry of Rural Development.

Only 29 percent of Cambodians had access to sanitation facilities as of 2008, said the report released on Monday, which draws on figures from the World Health Organisation and the UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.

By comparison, 96 percent of people in Thailand, 75 percent in Vietnam and 53 percent in Laos had access to such facilities, according to the JMP 2010 report, which was released in March.

Furthermore, 67 percent of Cambodians living in urban areas had access to sanitation facilities in 2008, compared with only 18 percent of people in rural areas.

Chea Samnang, director of the Rural Development Ministry’s Department of Rural Heath, said on Monday that the number of toilets in the Kingdom’s rural areas was increasing at about 2 percent annually. “We see it is increasing, but it is so slow.”

He said he did not believe that the lack of progress in rural areas could be attributed to poverty levels, arguing that many people who did not own a toilet, which would cost around US$20-30, owned other “modern electrical items” such as motorbikes or telephones.

They Chanto, hygiene promotion officer at the ministry’s Rural Hygiene Education Office, said that a substantial number of Cambodians defecated in the open, and that about “3,000 fresh stools were scattered into the environment each day”.

A hex on your house

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
via CAAI

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Heng Chivoan

Boeung Kak lakeside residents gather at Preah Ang Dankhor near the Royal Palace to light incense sticks during a ceremony to pray for themselves and curse Shukaku Inc, the developers responsible for filling in the lake and burying several homes beneath mud and sand last week. Villagers also said they plan to hold a protest today to further demonstrate their displeasure with the developer and the government.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

Thai soldiers kill two suspected Cambodians

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

Thai border officials confirmed yesterday that their soldiers recently shot and killed two men they suspect were Cambodians who were illegally logging in Thai territory. Touch Ra, the chief of border relations at a checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province, said the dead victims “could be Cambodian citizens” because many workers illegally log in Thailand to make money. He said the victims likely weren’t from the province’s Anlong Veng or Trapang Prasat districts because no missing persons have been reported. According to local rights groups, more than 20 Cambodians have been injured or killed by Thai troops since 2008 while logging across the border.

Four dead in R’kiri

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

Four people drowned after a boat carrying a total of eight occupants sank on Monday evening in Ratanakkiri’s Vern Sai district, officials said yesterday. La Bun Peng, community chief in Vern Sai district said “a mother and three children died because they could not swim,” while the overloaded boat sank, adding that the victim’s other children, husband, and boat owner swam to safety and survived. La Bun Peng said the cause of the crash remained unknown, but that it was likely the fault of overloading of goods and passengers that led to the tragedy. The victims were identified as ethnic brov from Mondulkiri who were relocating to Vern Sai district. The surviving husband has demanded US$1,000 in compensation from the boat owner, according to Vern Sai District Governor Teoun Nouthorng, adding that the owner had agreed to pay when he could.

Police Blotter: 10 Nov 2010

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:01 Phak Seangly

Loud ‘gangsters’ stone, beat security guards
Four “gangsters” were arrested on Saturday night after they hurled rocks at two security guards in Phnom Penh. Police said the gang “made loud noises” as neighbours near the Canadia Bank were trying to sleep. The two security guards at the bank came out and asked them to keep it down, after which the suspects hurled stones at them before beating them. The guards were sent to hospital with serious injuries.

Nine teens hit dancers with bike chains, belts
Battambang provincial police shaved the heads of nine teenagers accused of injuring three men as they were dancing at a wedding on Sunday. Police said the group of unruly teenagers, who may have been drunk, joined the wedding and began to dance. As they did so, one of the three victims stepped on one teenager’s toes. The teenagers then proceeded to beat the three men with bike chains and their belts. Police arrested them and shaved their heads as punishment, before releasing them after their parents signed a contract promising their children wouldn’t do it again.

Bullet strikes woman, police don’t intervene
A woman was injured after a stray bullet struck her in the knee in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district on Saturday. A witness reported that a group of men were drinking, when an argument broke out and the men began pelting each other with stones. One of the stones struck a moving car, when the driver hopped out and began shooting. A bullet ricocheted and wounded the woman, who was celebrating the 1-year birthday of her daughter nearby. The gunman and the group of men fled the scene, and police said it was “too late” to intervene.

Two men at large after knifepoint robbery
Police are on the hunt for two men accused of robbing a woman in Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkul Borei district on Thursday. Police said the men robbed the woman at knifepoint and fled the scene. The victim claimed she lost a gold necklace, mobile phone and US$5 in the mugging.

Pork vendor victim of the old bag switcheroo
A pork vendor lost 20 million riels (US$5,000) and two damlung of gold on Sunday morning when a customer switched bags with her in Pursat town. A woman with a black bag reportedly pretended to buy pork, but sneakily switched bags with the vendor when she wasn’t looking. Later, the woman realised her bag was stolen and reported it to police. No one was arrested, as the victim could not describe the suspect.

Kingdom rice dealers bound for Indonesia

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

A DELEGATION of rice dealers is set to visit Indonesia, following comments from the country’s ambassador that it is considering importing 300,000 tonnes of the grain from Cambodia.

“We will officially visit Indonesia to talk with Indonesian government representatives and traders about rice exports,” Lim Bun Heng, director of Loran Import-Export Co, said yesterday.

The delegation – composed of at least 10 industry representatives – would make the trip after the Water Festival, he said.

Loran could export a maximum of 5,000 tonnes of rice a month at present, while Indonesia needed a lot of rice to help victims of the recent volcanic eruption and Tsunami which have hit the island nation, according to Lim Bun Heng.

Phou Puy, president of the Federation of Cambodia Rice Millers Associations, confirmed yesterday that Indonesia had called for imports of up to 300,000 tonnes.

“We are in negotiations with each other on price and schedules for export. We are trying to export more and more,” he said. Last week, Indonesia’s ambassador to Cambodia, Soehardjono Sastromihardjo, told The Post the nation needed 20 million tonnes of rice every year to supply its population.

Local firms are also looking to new markets, with Golden Rice targetting 50,000 tonnes of rice to Europe, the United States, and Asia next year.


Herbal remedies researched

via CAAI

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:00 Im Navin

FRENCH biopharmaceutical group Pharnext is studying the potential for the construction of a herbal medicine factory in Cambodia, as part of a joint venture with local firm Mede Khmer.

Herbal remedies to counter high blood pressure, diabetes and skin conditions are on the cards, according to Moung Sothy, general manager of Mede Khmer.

The companies are now studying the varieties of local plants available and theirsustainability.

“The first step is to select the herbs ... maybe one year later we can set up a factory in Cambodia. I believe that it is not long everything will take shape,” he said.

Investment, he said, could reach from US$40 million to $60 million, he added.

“In the past Khmer traditional doctors used physalis subglabrata to cure high blood pressure – but they were not experienced in the terms of science to make sure that whether those kinds of herbs are successfully used.

“We will test scientifically to make sure that those kinds of herbs are effective. We have big labs in China, France and the United States,” Moung Sothy said.

Mom Bun Heng, Minister of Health, said he did not know about the investment plans but welcomed the move.

“Despite the advanced technology, we cannot give up traditional herbs. In the developed countries traditional herbs are still used. Those kinds of traditional herbs are the root of scientific medicines,” he said.

“I don’t know whether this investment will be successful, but the research conducted every day is a useful job for Cambodia,” added Ung Sok Lean, who is deputy director of National Centre for Khmer traditional medicines, an organisation which has been researching herbs with Pharnext Group.

“If they can set up a pharmaceutical factory in Cambodia, the company will distribute those medicines to impoverished people.”

Indochina sales up for Carlsberg

via CAAI

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

CARLSBERG – 50 percent owner of the brewery behind Angkor beer – claimed strong sales in Cambodia over the first nine months of the year, in a third-quarter update that came in below most analysts’ expectations yesterday.

Organic volumes increased by 23 percent in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam during the first nine months, compared to the same period 2009, according to the results from the Danish firm.

“The growth was strong across all three markets,” it said.

Carlsberg claimed sales in its Indochina region increased at a faster rate than the overall regional beer market.

Sihanoukville-based Cambrew Ltd – 50 percent owned by Carlsberg – claims 26 percent market share in the Kingdom, and is the brewer of Angkor, Bayon, and Klang beers in Cambodia, among others.

Although Carlsberg saw strong growth in Indochina and other parts of Asia, it claimed “challenging” conditions in its Northern and Western European markets Net income was 1.95 billion Danish krone [US$363 million] in the third quarter, the company said in a statement.

That missed the 2.17 billion krone average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“Looking forward, we will be impacted by rising input costs and will therefore have to increase sales prices,” chief executive officer Joergen Buhl Rasmussen said in the statement.


Pursat River Run returns

Mok Bunthoeun, a Phnom Penh tuk-tuk driver, crosses the finish line in first place during last year’s men’s 10km Pursat River Run. Photo by: NHEA HORT

via CAAI

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

Buoyed by last year’s success, the small provincial capital of Pursat is bracing itself for the fourth edition of the Pursat River Run this Sunday.

The town of 25,000 people comes bustling to life during these increasingly popular road races of 5 kilometres and 10 kilometres for both men and women, when the area pools its resources to promote health and sport and also raise funds for the development of budding young local athletes.

The annual river run, which takes a picturesque route along the banks of the Pursat river, is organised by Pursat Development of Education, Youth and Sport with support from the Kingmaker Foundation and the Green Vespa. The Disability Development Services Programme is also staging two races for the disabled – one for amputees, mainly landmine survivors, and the other for wheelchair racers.

The event has steadily grown in stature since its inception in 2007. The inaugural event attracted 286 runners, which increased to 393 the following year before seeing a record 495 compete last year. The organisers are confident that there will be another sizeable increase in participation this year.

The idea for the event was conceived by English expatriate runner and Pursat resident Steve Harknett as a response to the dearth of organised long distance road races in the country. The inaugural run was named after famous local legend Oknha Khleang Moeung before switching to its current title the following year, when an extra race for the disabled athletes was introduced. The third edition on October 25 last year included nine elite Cambodian runners, 20 expatriates from 11 countries, as well as 18 amputees and 13 wheelchair racers.

One of the Kingdom’s leading cellphone services providers, Smart Mobile, are the main sponsors this year, donating the entire prize fund including cash, locally-made trophies and other prizes for the first 15 finishers in the men’s and women’s over 5 kilometre and 10 kilometre races.

According to race organisers, all proceeds from the event will go towards school sports development in Pursat. The three-pronged objective of the River Run is to celebrate running, promote disability equality and stimulate the local economy.

Entrance fees for the run have been fixed at US$15 for foreigners and $1 for local participants. Entries can be registered online at, by email to or by phoning 093300002.

Celebrating 57 years of independence

via CAAI

Tuesday, 09 November 2010 17:38 Vong Sokheng

About 2,000 people gathered at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh today for a ceremony marking the 57th anniversary of the country’s emancipation from French colonial rule.

A brass band played patriotic anthems as crowds of students, diplomats, police and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers – some bearing photographs of King Norodom Sihamoni and his father – gathered to watch senior officials lay wreaths at the monument.

The King laid a wreath at the foot of the monument and ignited the flame inside its central canopy.

According to tradition, the flame will remain lit for three days under the guard of RCAF soldiers and will be extinguished again by King Sihamoni on Thursday.

Independence Day marks the day – November 9, 1953 – Cambodia was granted its independence by France, ending 90 years of colonial rule. It was also the culmination of then-King Norodom Sihanouk’s so-called Royal Crusade for Independence, the legacy of which he subsequently used to cement his role at the centre of Cambodian political life.

Minister of Defence Tea Banh said November 9 was a precious day for the Cambodian people – particularly for members of the military who have sacrificed their lives for the protection of the country’s territorial integrity.

“It is an affirmation that Cambodia has full independence and political stability for national development in most sectors,” he told The Post at the ceremony.

Yim Sovann, spokesman of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said his party was grateful to King Father Norodom Sihanouk for leading the country’s fight for independence.

But he said the government had to ensure that neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand respected the independence and sovereignty of Cambodia.

“I’m grateful to the King Father, but I’m concerned that the current controversial border issues with neighbouring countries will cause Cambodia to lose its independence and territorial sovereignty in the future,” he said.

The SRP has recently been vocal in its accusations that the government has turned a blind eye to Vietnamese territorial encroachments.

The party’s self-exiled president, Sam Rainsy, has been sentenced to a total of 12 years’ jail for pushing the claims publicly.

Trade deficit to rise

via CAAI

Tuesday, 09 November 2010 20:16 May Kunmakara

Cambodia’s trade deficit stands to widen together with a weakening United States dollar, experts have told The Post.

The Kingdom’s trade imbalance stood at US$904 million for the first nine months of the year, according to Ministry of Commerce figures.

Economists said a depreciating American greenback would make imports denominated in other currencies more expensive, increasing the gap between imports and exports.

Cambodia’s largest export market for garments – the largest domestic export industry – is the United States, which pays for its orders in dollars.

Imports, in contrast, are more diverse and are bought in a number of different currencies, many of which are appreciating against the greenback, experts said.

“Although the export price does not change, the import price in dollars is increasing,” Suzuki Hiroshi, chief executive officer of Business Research Institute for Cambodia said.

“In other words … the trade deficit is widening,” he said.

The value of the dollar has declined against most international currencies since the US Federal Reserve announced a plan last week to spend US$600 billion on government bonds over the next year as part of a second round of quantitative easing, dubbed QE22.

Suzuki pointed out that Cambodia was a highly dollarised economy, with more than 90 percent of cash denominated in US dollars, along with 97 percent of bank deposits.
On Tuesday, a US dollar traded at 4,100 riel, a 2.73 percent decrease from rates of 4,212 riel per greenback seen last week, according to a report on commodity prices from the Ministry of Commerce.

Tatsufumi Yamagata, professor at the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE)-JETRO in Japan, added that the value of Cambodian exports would only improve if sales abroad were conducted in riel instead of the dollar.

“This could be a timely opportunity for Cambodia to diversify destinations of garments to non-US markets,” he said.

If the riel was more widely used, he claimed it would be “beneficial to Cambodian consumers who can import goods at the cost of a smaller amount of riel”.

Kang Chandararot, president and independent economist at the Cambodia Institute for Development Study agreed that the US dollar decline would not address Cambodia’s trade imbalance.

He said the National Bank of Cambodia should intervene to stop fluctuations in the exchange rate to boost confidence in the riel. “Don’t let the dollar depreciate sharply,” he advised the central bank.

He added the NBC should consider policies to push domestic banks to offer more loans at a “suitable interest rate”, to assist the production of goods for export.

An NBC official played down concerns yesterday, claiming that exchange rates fluctuations had little immediate impact on the Kingdom’s trade balance.

NBC secretary general Sum Saniseth pointed to increased confidence in the Kingdom stemming from the value of the riel.
“Appreciation of the riel shows our economy is strong,” he said.

Though daily exchange rate between the two currencies is set by the open market, the central bank does step in to stop the exchange rate from fluctuating too widely, according to Sum Saniseth.

“Our target is exchange rate stability. We don’t want it to depreciate or appreciate excessively,” he said, adding the central bank aimed at keeping the riel at around 4,100 against the American greenback.

Despite concerns about the increased price of imports affecting the trade imbalance, some experts said the depreciating dollar would prove a boon for exports.

Late last week, Asian Development Bank economist Jayant Menon said the weakening dollar could help Cambodian exports become more competitive, compared with countries where a strengthening local currency is used to pay production costs.


Four charged in daring gold heist

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Gold vendors stand behind their case near Central Market

via CAAI

Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:21 Chrann Chamroeun

Kampong Cham provincial court has charged four men who posed as policemen with the robbery and murder of a gold vendor, as rights groups expressed concern that the skyrocketing price of gold has left vendors more susceptible to robberies.

Chhorn Cheang, 50, was shot four times, once in the heart, as he was fighting the suspects on Thursday at his home in Tbong Khmom district’s Chiko commune.

Deputy provincial police chief Chem Senghong said the four suspects had been arrested: Heng Vanna, Seng Pisath, Chan Phay and So Oeung.

“An investigating judge has decided to detain the four suspects in prison under robbery and murder charges,” he said.

Tbong Khmom district police chief Heang Hot said the victim’s wife was home alone when the suspects posed as policemen and stormed the house, tying up the woman.

“When the victim arrived home, he fought with the robbers and was shot four times by Heng Vanna.”

The robbery comes as the price of gold soared to record highs of US$1,414.85 in London on Tuesday and is headed towards a 10th annual gain.

Asian Games incentive

Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
Cambodian wrestlers Kang Denpiseth (right) and Chov Sotheara walk through customs at Phnom Penh International Airport before departing for the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 09 November 2010 17:57 H S Manjunath

The Cambodian government have given a major boost to the morale of sports teams bound for the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou by announcing huge cash bonanzas for medalists in any of the eight disciplines the Kingdom is taking part in.

Cambodia joins the list of many countries in the region awarding such bounties for medal winners. The government will award a cash prize of 40 million riels (US$9,640) for a gold medal, 24 million riels for a silver and 18 million riels for a bronze finish in either individual or team events.

“The contingent feels proud and honoured by the encouraging words of the Prime Minister, and they are excited about the incentives being offered for the first time in the history of Cambodia's Asian Games participation,” said Vath Chamroeun, Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, as he bid farewell to the departing squad.

Headed by Chef de Mission Sok Ang, the 42-strong delegation comprises participants in tennis, taekwondo, swimming, athletics, boxing, beach volleyball, wrestling and Chinese chess, and are accompanied by trainers and technical staff as well as a few local sports officials.

The NOCC Secretary General has left for Guangzhou, while NOCC President Thong Khon is scheduled to join them Wednesday.

The NOCC has been flooded with good luck messages from various organisations and government agencies, but the most significant one came from the prime minister, who said he was convinced the Cambodian athletes would try their best to enhance the prestige of the country and that their performances would surpass their previous achievements.

Vath Chamrouen said the NOCC was happy with the preparations of the teams. “We do realise that it is a very tough competition among the 45 nations taking part, but we have faith in the competence and commitment of our athletes,” he said.

“Our main medal hope is in Taekwondo. Two of our women performers – Chhoeung Puthearim and Sorn Davin – won gold medals in a Korean competition two months ago, and that raises our expectations. Our chess players are taking part in Chinese chess for the first time, and we have a good perfomer in Heng Chamnan.

“It is unfortunate that table tennis could not make the grade, as the SEA Games performance was set as the threshold for qualification [which they failed to meet]," he added.

Tennis Federation of Cambodia's national team head coach Braen Aneiros felt that the Guangzhou Games could be a game changer for No 1 ranked local player Bun Kenny if he could ride home the recent momentum generated by his performance in Laos, where he picked up his first ATP point. “Bun Kenny will be playing in tough company, and if he does well it could open up new avenues for him,” said Aneiros, who also suggested that 16-year-old teammate Orn Sambath would get good international exposure.

Cambodia made their first appearance in Manila at the 1954 Asian Games, also known as the Asiad. This year’s edition, held in China for the second time after Beijing's hosting in 1990, runs from November 12-27 and features 476 events in 42 different sports.

Work to begin on sky bridge

via CAAI

Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:11 Chhay Channyda

Construction is set to begin on the Kingdom’s second flyover next month, as part of a strategy to reduce traffic congestion in Phnom Penh, a city official said.

The overpass will connect Tuol Kork and Sen Sok districts, according to Sen Sok district governor Khuong Sreng.

Heng Nguon, who heads bridge and street projects in the municipal Public Works and Transportation Department, said city experts were testing the ground on Russian Boulevard in preparation for construction.

“The sky bridge will help a lot to ease the traffic happening in that area,” he said.

At 420 metres long and 15.2 metres wide, the planned bridge would be larger than the capital’s first flyover, the Kbal Thnal Sky Bridge, said a municipal official working on the site who declined to be named.

He added that “tycoon Pung Kheav Se’s firm, OCIC, funded the project”.

Overseas Cambodia Investment Cooperation president Pung Kheav Se and project manager Touch Samanag could not be reached for comment.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the project at the inauguration of Kbal Thnal Sky Bridge in June. Officials plan to build six more flyovers in Phnom Penh, according to the city’s official website.

Cambodian sanitation ranks last in region

via CAAI

Tuesday, 09 November 2010 18:45 Rann Reuy

Fewer people in Cambodia have access to adequate sanitation facilities than in any other Southeast Asian country, according to a new report from the Ministry of Rural Development.

Only 29 percent of Cambodians had access to sanitation facilities as of 2008, said the report released on Monday, which draws on figures from the World Health Organisation and the UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.

By comparison, 96 percent of people in Thailand, 75 percent in Vietnam and 53 percent in Laos had access to such facilities, according to the JMP 2010 report, which was released in March.

Furthermore, 67 percent of Cambodians living in urban areas had access to sanitation facilities in 2008, compared with only 18 percent of people in rural areas.

Chea Samnang, director of the Rural Development Ministry’s Department of Rural Heath, said on Monday that the number of toilets in the Kingdom’s rural areas was increasing at about 2 percent annually.

“We see it is increasing, but it is so slow,” he said.

He said he did not believe that the lack of progress in rural areas could be attributed to poverty levels, arguing that many people who did not own a toilet, which would cost about US$20-30, owned other “modern electrical items” such as motorbikes or telephones.

They Chanto, hygiene promotion officer at the ministry’s Rural Hygiene Education Office, said a substantial number of Cambodians defecate in the open, meaning that about “3,000 fresh stools were scattered into the environment each day”.

Cambodia Marks 57th Anniversary of Independence Day

Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh

Students release balloon during Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2010. Cambodia celebrates on Tuesday the 57th anniversary of its independence from France. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni greets officials upon his arrival to attend the Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh November 9, 2010. Cambodia celebrates its 57th anniversary of Independence from France on November 9. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea  

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, rear right, greets students during an Independence Day celebration at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. King Sihamoni was joined by thousands of civil servants and students to mark the country's 57th Independence Day from France. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, center, claps altogether with Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, and Heng Samrin, second left, National Assembly President, during the Independence Day celebration at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. King Sihamoni is jointed by thousand of civil servants and students to mark the country's 57th Independence Day from France, Nov. 9, 1953. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)  

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets the honour guard upon his arrival for Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2010. Cambodia celebrates on Tuesday the 57th anniversary of its independence from France. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets the honour guard upon his arrival to attend the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2010. Cambodia celebrates on Tuesday the 57th anniversary of its independence from France. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea 

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets students at the Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh November 9, 2010. Cambodia celebrates its 57th anniversary of Independence from France on November 9. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea 

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni waves at the Independence Day celebration in Phnom Penh November 9, 2010. Cambodia celebrates its 57th anniversary of Independence from France on November 9. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea 

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni gestures in greetings after lighting the fire for Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh November 9, 2010. Cambodia celebrates on Tuesday the 57th anniversary of its independence from France. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea