Wednesday, 8 December 2010

State reviews policy on draft information law

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:01 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

About 60 members of the Cambodian Parliament convened yesterday to discuss a policy paper urging the adoption of a draft law on Access to Information during a workshop in Phnom Penh.

Tep Ngorn, second vice president of the Senate, said that access to information was one of the most important components to promoting human rights and democracy in Cambodia.

“I think that access to information is a major way to stimulate transparency and participation from the public with the aim of developing the country,” he said.

The workshop, titled “Access to Information and the Cambodian Parliament”, was organized by the Advocacy and Policy Institute.

Neb Sinthay, director of the institute, said the law on Access to Information was particularly important for members of the media to be able to report accurately on information from the government and the private sector.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said the government had been working on the issue since 2004, when it wrote a draft policy paper on freedom of information, finalised in 2007, which served as a framework for a draft law.

“Recently, the [policy paper] on the Access to Information law has been openly discussed by civil society and state institutions, and has also drawn the attention of state institutions, the National Assembly and donors,” he said.

“We hope that the draft will be forwarded to the office of the Council of Ministers for considerations soon.”

Khieu Kanharith added that the paper was currently at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection.

Cigarette law crackdown

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:01 Khoun Leakhana

THE Ministry of Health announced yesterday that further steps will be taken against tobacco companies failing to comply with new regulations mandating the inclusion of health warnings on cigarette packaging.

Khun Sokrin, director of the health promotion centre at the Ministry of Health, told a health conference that noncompliant firms would first receive a warning letter from the Minister of Health.

Firms continuing to ignore the rules would face temporary suspension of their operations, or, as a final resort, permanent closure, said Ung Phyron, a secretary of state at the ministry.

Although most major Cambodian tobacco manufacturers and importers have adhered to the new regulations, which came into affect in July, the government currently faces problems identifying smaller firms that have failed to comply.

Nal Vichet, director of complaints resolution at the Ministry of Commerce, said some tobacco importers are not officially registered or – if registered – provide misleading import figures.

“Conducting research to find out which companies have complied is going to be a challenging and expensive process,” said Mark Schwisowm of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.


Traffic deaths up on last year

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A man crawls down from a smashed-up truck following a multi-car accident on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh in April.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana

TRAFFIC accidents killed more than 100 people in Cambodia last month, a 19 percent rise from November of last year, a government statement said yesterday.

At least 131 people died as a result of traffic accidents last month, up from 110 people in the same month last year, according to Him Yan, director of the Interior Ministry’s department of public order.

The number of accidents also increased from 425 in November last year to 494 last month, he said.

Him Yan said that the majority of accidents were caused by the carelessness of drivers and their failure to obey traffic laws, and in particular, drivers’ propensity to drive too fast.

“Ninety percent of the traffic accidents are caused by human errors. They are [the result of] negligence,” he said.

“Increasing traffic has also trigged more accidents”, he said.

Him Yan added that traffic from the large holiday crowds, particularly for this year’s Water Festival, which drew an estimated 3 million people to Phnom Penh, also played a role in this year’s spike in accidents.

Som Socheata, road safety programme manager at Handicap International Belgium, said respect for traffic laws in Cambodia remains limited.

She said that a significant number of accidents are alcohol-related.

“Besides speeding, another cause [of traffic accidents] is driving under the influence of alcohol, [responsible for] between 15 and 20 percent” of accidents, she said.

Report shows intimidation in Ratanakiri

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Tep Nimol

INTIMIDATION from the rich and powerful is the most commonly cited complaint from ethnic minority groups and people living in poverty in Ratanakkiri province, officials at the rights group Adhoc said yesterday.

Chhay Thy, provincial Adhoc monitor, said the Ratanakkiri office had received 68 complaints so far this year, 18 of which came from minority groups or individuals living in poverty who claimed to have been threatened in some way.

He said that, with eight cases this year, torture was the next most commonly reported complaint, followed by land dispute cases at seven, and rape cases at six.

“These are the hot cases in this area and most of the people who caused the problems are people who have power and money,” he said.

He added that the figures probably understated the extent of the problem because many minority groups often choose not to report abuses to authorities.

Mom Saroeun, Ratanakkiri provincial deputy governor, declined to comment yesterday, saying he had not yet seen the report from Adhoc, which is due to be officially released in January.

“How can I comment on the report if I did not see it yet?” he said. “If I get the report, I will go down to the areas where there are a lot of cases in order to see whether there are threats and rights abuses or not,” he said.

Chan Soveth, a senior Adhoc monitor, said there was not enough protection of human rights nationwide.

“The Cambodian government’s practice with human rights [issues] is still low,” Chan Soveth said.

Police Blotter: 8 Dec 2010

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Sen David

Twisted fire starters blamed for house blaze
Police are blaming “drug-addicted gangsters” for a fire that destroyed a flat in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Monday. Three fire trucks were sent to extinguish the blaze, which began while the owners of the apartment were away from home. Police said a group of ‘gangsters’ who had been loitering outside the building fled the scene after the flat caught fire. A neighbour praised a quick response from firemen for preventing the fire from spreading. “This is a flat,” she said. “It is easy to spread to other houses, but the authority helped us immediately.”

Domestic help arrested over robbing employers
A domestic worker in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to rob her employer’s home. Police said the woman, who had been left in charge of the house while the owners were out of town at a wedding, had told her employers the house had been robbed while they were away. But when the home owners reported the robbery, police became suspicious of the domestic worker. Police said the woman admitted after questioning that she had helped a relative to rob the house.

Suspect in custody over rape of karaoke woman
A 22-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of raping a waitress in the restroom of a Karaoke parlour in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town on Sunday. The manager of the Karaoke parlour said he had filed a complaint to police because the man was a regular customer who often made trouble and he suspected the girl was telling the truth.

Victim of stabbing found dead in Koh Kong field
The body of a man who was stabbed to death has been found in a field in Koh Kong’s Mondul Seima district, police said. The man had been stabbed seven times with a knife that was found bloodied and discarded near the body. Police said they have identified a suspect but have not yet made an arrest.

Man will not now know value of wearing helmet
One man died and two people were severely injured in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Sunday. Police said the man died from head injuries immediately after two motorbikes, both of which were speeding, collided. The victim’s family said the man refused to wear a helmet because he did not believe it would protect him from injury, but police said the death could have been prevented if the man had been wearing a helmet. An elderly woman injured in the accident was taken to hospital.

ADB warns against rising budget deficit

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

CAMBODIA’S government may consider measures to reduce its growing deficit, though the domestic economy is experiencing “solid growth”, according to the Asian Development Bank yesterday.

The central government’s fiscal deficit is estimated to climb to 7.4 percent of GDP in 2010, up from 5.0 percent in 2009, the ADB’s December Asia Economic Monitor report said.

“As a consequence of fiscal stimulus, some economies have seen budget deficits rise,” the report said, adding that the Kingdom should consider measures to reduce government expenditures as economic conditions allow.

Cambodia, along with Indonesia, China, and Hong Kong, were cited as countries which have seen deficits rise this year over 2009 by the report, which added many of East Asia’s countries were seeing fiscal stimulus measures scaled back.

Iwan Azis, head of the ADB’s office of Regional Economic Integration, said a recovering global economy would lead to domestic growth this year.

“For 2010, we expect solid growth in the Cambodian economy, thanks to a recovery in world trade which helped Cambodian exports,” he wrote to The Post yesterday.

At a press briefing in Hong Kong, Azis recommended currency cooperation in the region, pointing out that, with the exception of Vietnam, East Asia’s currencies have been surging in 2010, a situation that “will not help” efforts to focus on intra-regional trade in response to sagging demand in the West.

Without cooperation “intraregional trade will not be as good as it could be,” he added.

Siem Reap set for 2010 Open

A view of Roluh Bridge, which was built in the 11th Century, leading up to the clubhouse of Phokeethra Country Club in Siem Reap. Photo Supplied

A golfer tees off at the Phokeethra Country Club course, which is set to host the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open from tomorrow. Photo Supplied

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath and Charles Amery

The fourth edition of the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open golf tournament, which tees off tomorrow at the Phokeethra Country Club in Siem Reap, offers Asian Tour pros a penultimate stop to tidy up their tournament cards and avoid qualification hassles for the next season.

The US$300,000 event, the Kingdom’s richest sporting venture, is crucially important for the touring pros to secure a safe berth within the comfort zone of the 65 top finishers at the end of the season. With the Black Mountain Masters at Hua Hin in Thailand bringing the curtain down on the 2010 season a week after this event, good performances in Siem Reap inevitably lead to better placements.

In terms of prize money, the Cambodian Open meets minimum Asian Tour standards but its timing makes a profound impact on the field.

“Being the season’s last but one [event], it could well shape the destiny of some players when they cross over to the next,” Asian Tour Senior Director Htwe Hla Han told The Post yesterday. “The winner gets a two-year exemption from the qualifiers and the top five will directly get into the Black Mountain Masters.”

The Singapore-based tour development executive added that “the main goal is to spread golf to every corner of Asia, and an emerging market like Cambodia plays an important role. The amateur talent is there to be seen and it is time Cambodia sent out a pro on the Tour.”

The heritage and history of Angkor Wat and the hospitality laid out for the touring pros had made the Cambodian Open a popular tour destination. The title sponsorship by Johnnie Walker and the Royal Government’s unwavering support had clearly raised its stature, said Htwe.

Meanwhile, the busiest man at the sprawling Phokeethra Country Club is Operation Manager Jack Hedges, who brings his European Tour experience at to his one-year appointment in Siem Reap.

Hedges, who marshalls a staff of about 300 at the course for its showcase event, is in no doubt that golf’s profile has gone up and the Kingdom is fast developing into a major destination in the region.

“We can clearly see the growth year by year. I will not be surprised if one or two breakthrough the amateur ranks for Cambodia and this Asian Tour stop is an important one for local golfers,” he said.

“It is a longer course. It is a challenging one. It calls on everyone to put their thinking caps on and the totally contrasting holes also make it a bit tricky.”

Top course for top Tour event
The first world-class international golf course in Seam Reap, the Phokeethra Country Club, is ranked among the top-five of the best new courses in Asia by Asian Golf Monthly Magazine. The grounds are steeped in Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.

Located next to the clubhouse and first tee is the ancient 32-metre wide Roluh Bridge, which dates back to the 11th century and represents the link between the past and the present day. The Phokeethra Country Club’s slogan invites the golfing fraternity to “Tee-off in the 11th Century and finish your round in the 21st Century”, with the Roluh Bridge as the central feature of the club’s logo.

The weather would not have been a factor at all but for yesterday evening’s unseasonal showers and forecasts of sporadic rain over the next two days. As one local golfer put it: “Rain and Siem Reap are not the best of friends. I do not really remember the last time it rained here.” Undaunted by the meteorologists’ predictions, the pros used every minute of the last practice
session yesterday.

Today is a day of fun, with a Pro-Am event on the cards followed by a gala dinner at the famous Bayon Temple. However, tomorrow morning it is back to serious business with competitors teeing off from 7am.

Le Man falls to Ek Chamrouen

Cambodian star Ek Chamroeun hits a return during his Tep Khunnah Memorial tournament U18 singles match against Vietnam’s Le Man at the National Training Centre yesterday. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

Le Man, Vietnam’s lone survivor in the second round of the U18 singles of the Tep Khunnah Memorial tennis tournament, proved cannon fodder for local youngster Ek Chamroeun, who worked up a blistering pace to emerge a 6-0, 6-0 winner at the National Training Centre yesterday.

In the day’s other U18 match between two local lads, Kan Sophon dropped just one game in the first set and then blanked out Touch Sothearoth 6-1, 6-0 to make the next stage.

Focus now shifts to the showpiece event of the week, the Super Singles which starts today, with national team members Bun Kenny and Orn Sambath joining four other highly rated players from neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam.

The national No 1 Bun Kenny heads group A with Benjamas Pongsatorn of Thailand and Mai Thanh Dong of Vietnam. Orn Samabath is clustered with Ton That Minh of Vietnam and Timo Sivapruksa of Thailand. The first phase is a round robin with the top two playing criss cross semifinals. The final is scheduled for Sunday.

Pro-Am event wraps up ahead of Senior Masters

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

Reid Sheftall, an American pro living in Cambodia, led a team of three amateurs including Senior Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh to the day’s best team score in a Pro-Am event leading into the Asian Senior Masters at the Siem Reap Lake Resort Golf Club yesterday. Seng Vanthy and Ly Hong completed the four-player flight, with the latter firing the best individual score of the day at 68. For Emmett McHenry, justice was delayed but not denied in the end. The man from Ireland shot the round of his life during Monday’s first day of the Pro-Am event, but his gross 65 after his handicap deduction of 24 strokes, went unrecognised by the officials for the best individual stroke play prize of the day. The organisers however ratified the score later in the evening and awarded a token prize to 62-year-old McHenry. The event shifts gear from the fun-filled Pro-Am to the Masters proper today.

What's new

First of all, the main actor should have known his lover was a ghost at first sight. How did a well-dressed lady sit in the pagoda alone at late night?

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:01 Taing Khyhay

"Love of Wonder" will leave you wondering why you came

LOVE has always been a popular subject when shooting a film. Though it is not new, this subject still emerges in most contemporary Khmer movies in the Kingdom. Love of Wonder, one of the newest fictional films from Mohahong Production, has screened at cinema Sorya recently. Due to my curiosity about its title, the word “Wonder” drove my desire to see that film.

Some may feel there is nothing interesting about a love story, but to my surprise, about 50 people in the cinema actually enjoyed it.

The film started with the dream the main actor named Sokret had. In his dream he sees a woman calling him and she suddenly jumps down from a mountain. Sokret, the son of a poor family in Battambang, has just finished high school and wanted to continue his studies at university in Phnom Penh. He and his close friends head for the city to gain further knowledge and live in a monastery with one pagoda where the head monk advised them not to go out at night.

On their first night there, Sokret hears the sound of a woman crying while reading his book. He then looked through the window and saw the lady he had dreamed of the previous day. Without realising she is a ghost, they chat several times and he falls in love with her.

Dalis, the female ghost, also loves Sokret and does not hurt him while other ghosts try to kill him. However, eventually Sokret discovers that his lover Dalis is not human; he convinces her to be reborn and hopes they meet in the next life.

Do you want to know why Dalis died and stayed in the pagoda? What comes next is the real start of the movie. True love never runs smoothly and there are unexpected things in the movie which will test your imagination and leave you wondering how the film will end.

Besides the romantic scenes, there are some very funny ones involving gays, which left the audience rolling in laughter. There are many ghosts in the pagoda, including one who is gay, which the film’s director included to make the story funny. But I feel the story was a bit awkward and illogical

Getting work done

Mechanics-in-training align the tyres of an SUV at High Technology Co in Phnom Penh. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

after getting vocational training it was easy to earn good money.---------------------------------------------------------

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Dara Saoyuth and Touch Yin Vannith

Most students strongly agree that a university education is crucial for their future. After graduating from high school, they enter university to pursue their studies by choosing majors, or subjects, they prefer such as law, information technology, economics, management and so forth. They pay some school fees for their bachelor’s degree over a four-year period.

Those who cannot afford to go to a university or are not interested in getting an education at a higher level are able to attend vocational training, which is traditionally non-academic and focuses on a particular skill, such as sewing or making technical repairs.

There are vocational training centres throughout the country, teaching people how to repair motors, electronics, hairdressing and make-up, clothing and cooking.

Kong Kolline, a master craftsman and also a trainer at the Socheat Beauty School where students’ studíes include steaming, styling hair, skin polishing and nail decorating, said her students were a mix of people from the countryside and those who live in the city.

“They cannot catch up with school lessons and some think they only have to spend a little time doing vocational training and they can earn a living by opening their own business,” said Kong Kolline.

This idea was echoed by Chhun Chhea, 26, who came to Phnom Penh from Takeo province to learn how to become a mechanic and fix cars. Chhun Chhea said he had spent one year at university and he stopped to learn how to repair cars and then started working in this field after studying for one year.

“I quit studying at university because I didn’t have enough money and my brain seems not to be designed for studying,” said Chhun Chhea, who explained that he faced some challenges because he had never had to use his mechanical skills before, but he had adjusted and now loved this job.

He said that after getting vocational training it was easy to earn good money, not like working in an administrative office job where people earned little money.

“I just repair a small part which doesn’t take long and I get $5 to $6 or more than that,” he said, adding that completing a university course takes a long time, but people who join the workforce also have to learn new skills, and he is now on his way to opening his own garage.

The Vimean Tep Technical School opened more than 20 years ago and has more than 200 students now studying there. It is a vocational training center in Phnom Penh where students can learn skills that include how to repair cars, motors, phones, televisions, radios, electronics and air-conditioners.

Chab Siphat, a director and trainer at Vimean Tep Technical School, said the number of students studying at his school keeps increasing because people see that their graduates are getting jobs. “Vocational subjects are easy to earn money from, take little time, cost less money and can help you earn a living for life, the same as those who go to study at university,” said Chab Siphat, who added that those who cannot read or write can still learn skills, although it gets hard for them to remember things if they cannot write things down or read.

At Vimean Tep Technical School, students can learn how to repair motors by spending only US$120, or they can spend $350 and learn how to repair telephones.

Lao Heum, the director of the department of Technical and Vocational Education and Training at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said vocational training is a good way to reduce unemployment and poverty in the country because vocational training enables youth to gain enough ability and capacity to enter the work force.

“We need only one or two engineers if we want to construct a building, while we cannot hire only one or two construction workers or technicians to build it, so we need a lot of vocational workers in the country,” said Lao Heum.

According to the Labor and Social Trends in Cambodia 2010 report from the National Institute of Statistics, with support from the International Labour Organisation, the Kingdom “desperately requires” skilled labour – such as mechanics, electrical technicians and workers in the hospitality industry – that is where the bulk of employment is being created.

“Most young people in Cambodia are studying majors such as accounting and management, which is also good, but if more and more people go into these fields, finding jobs will become more and more difficult,” said Tun Sophorn, a National Coordinator for Cambodia at the International Labour Organisation.

“I want the media as well as the relevant institutions to help broadcast the fact that parents should guide their children to study skills according to the marketplace and not just follow one another so they will not face problems in finding a job,” said Lao Heum.

Letter from abroad: Chanmony Chea, Long Beach, California, USA

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Chanmony Chea

Fail to plan, plan to fail. We all know this very well. So when do I need to plan my class schedule for spring semester, which will not start until late January? The answer is as early as mid-November, though the earlier I start planning, the better and easier it will be for me.

Just like other university students in the United Stated, I am responsible for my own degree of progress. At first, it did appear to me as a challenge, considering my past experience as a student at Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Back then I did not have to worry about which courses I was required to take to graduate or who my professors would be because school took care of these hassles. All I needed to do at the beginning of every semester was to obtain a copy of the pre-arranged schedule and find out who my assigned professors turned out to be.

That is not the case here, obviously.

A few months before semester starts, the university will list all the classes being offered along with the information about instructors, room numbers and day and time of the class meeting. Once the information becomes available to students, my planning will soon follow.

I may have to decide whether to take an accounting course in spring or save it for fall semester and take marketing instead. Once I have chosen to take one particular course, the next question will be who the potential instructors are. Very often I need to weigh the benefits of having a strict professor from whom I will learn a great deal against the luxury of not having to write a thick report should I take that same course with a relatively easier professor.

To be able to make an informed decision, the process may involve some research. I usually consult and seek advice from fellow students who have taken the course.

It didn’t take me long to adapt to this routine. I no longer consider it a challenge as I once did. Rather, I now appreciate and even enjoy the advantages that come with the freedom to make decisions regarding my own academic path.

One of the major benefits is I get to decide who I want to have for my professors. Taking classes with instructors whose teaching styles match my study techniques makes learning significantly easier and more effective and ultimately is good for my GPA.

There is also the freedom to select courses also allow me to efficiently balance my workload. By planning ahead, I can spread the deemed-to-be-hard classes instead of taking them all at once, so I hardly find myself in the situation of either under-load or over-load.

The distinct sense of independence and responsibility I have experienced is probably the greatest nonacademic reward. Not only do I get to make critical decisions, but I also learn to take full responsibility for the consequences that follow. I very much like the feeling of being in charge of navigating my own journey.

Personally, I find the education system in the United States more flexible than that in Cambodia. In addition to promoting independence, it encourages individuals to take charge of their education in a way that students in Cambodia cannot.

The Constructive Cambodian: Real threat of teenage gangsters on society

The Constructive Cambodian
Lift's senior writers comment on key issues in the Kingdom

Tong Soprach on the real threat of teenage gangsters on society

via CAAI
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Tong Soprach
At the moment, gang violence is happening every day, despite the government’s efforts to put an end to it. Earlier this month a student was killed and others suffered serious injuries after fights against rival gangs in the centre of the capital, and samurai swords are still the weapon of choice for the gangs. The fighting is brutal and the injuries horrific, but the authorities do not seem to be able to stop it.
I think this violence is an important issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. In the past, Prime Minister Hun Sen often announced in speeches that if he could not solve Khmeng tom neung, or the gangs, he would leave office, and he also warned government officials at all levels not to protect member of gangs who may be family members as it would cost them their jobs.
Until now I have not seen any information about members of the government or officials or a gang member’s parents who had left or resigned his/her position due to being unable to intervene in the gang fights. In fact, young people are still fighting in the streets every day.
While the local authorities do intervene sometimes, they cannot stop them. The public’s opinion seems to be that the prime minister’s voice was effective for only a few months and after that the gang activity flared up again. In the past, people called the gangs Bong Thom and Steav. Recently the Ministry of Interior gave an official definition of youth gangs as Khmeng Tom Noeung or Youk Veak Chun Tomneug. The gangs were divided into three categories:
  1. They are a young gang with a group leader (Bong Thom).
  2. They do activities.
  3. They just follow a young gang.

A survey called Pauper and Princeling by Gender and Development for Cambodia found that youth gangs follow a Ksei or Knong, which refers to powerful people behind the gangsters who protect them if they have any problems related to violence. The survey discovered that more than half of the youth interviewed in Phnom Penh do not trust the police or the courts.
While we recognise that the youth population is increasing every year, little seems to be done to help them. The authorities who run Phnom Penh have tried to create a few parks for children to play in, but there are few recreational places for young people.
On the other hand, crimes are committed every day. I would like to share my experience from several years of working with and researching the behaviour of middle-class youth in Cambodian society. There are six main factors leading young people to become involved in criminal activities:
  • They are hopeless over their future, so it’s easy for them to fall prey to peer pressure.
  • In the last decade, many public places where young people recreated were sold. Now, there is limited space for youth, such as a few parks, the RUPP (Royal University of Phnom Penh) football field and inside the Olympic Stadium. Where do young people play?
  • Middle-class youth today are much more materialistic and exposed to beer-gardens, karaoke clubs, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, massage parlours, hotels, guesthouses and brothels, some of which are located next to schools and universities. This leads to a troubled environment which young people come to enjoy rather than go to school. The question has to be asked: Who designs these environments? Young or old people?
  • The government and many donors overlook middle-class youth, who are also a high-risk group in society. There are only a few small youth centres run by NGOs through sexual and reproductive health and life-skills programmes. These centres are not enough for middle-class youths.
  • Old people prejudge young people negatively after seeing their attitudes, so youths do not allow their elders to give any advice.
  • Young people get no warmth from their parents, who are working hard and have much less time to talk with their children; especially some fathers who are enjoying themselves with new things such as another lover. They are not role models for their children. Sometimes parents use rough words and abuse their children and this leads to broken families.
  • Cambodia does not have a role model for young people, only bad behaviour like a senior government official who drove his car over the motorbike of a victim last month and walked away a free man.
 In order to address these issues, we, at the moment, would greatly appreciate if the government would close down all kinds of gambling establishments to help address the issue of social security.
However, I think the arrest and re-education of youthful offenders is not enough to secure Cambodian society.
However, there are seven main approaches to respond effectively to gang violence.
First, we must eliminate the culture of impunity that allows rich and powerful people to live outside the law. Not only arrest those gangs who were perpetrators of violence and crime as a show for the media and then several months later release them.
Second, Cambodian youth learn violent behaviour in part from international films and even locally produced comedies, not from the Khmer Rouge regime. They are too young.
Third, the prevalence of domestic violence also reinforces violent approaches to conflict resolution.
Fourth, the Kingdom does not have enough recreational outlets or government-sponsored programmes and activity centres to provide outlets for young people, particularly in the areas of athletics, art and music. And each school and university should have youth centers as well.
Fifth, drugs are easily accessible and contribute to a culture of violence, leading rival gangs to fight over territory and profits.
Sixth, role models are needed to show young people how to behave.
Lastly, there are many donor-funded organisations that focus broadly on education, health and youth leadership. But there are very few NGOs that work exclusively on community safety and youth-oriented violence, particularly among Cambodia’s middle- and upper-class youth.
I hope that a balanced approach as outlined above might help the government deal more effectively with gang-related violence and get closer to eliminating violence in Cambodian society. I believe that these reasons might help middle-class youth get far away from any crime in Cambodian society.
“Gangster” can mean alot of things in Cambodia. Do you think they should be considered a priority for police?

Popping out for a snack

Photo by: Will Baxter

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Will Baxter

As evening falls, a vendor sells bags of popcorn along Siem Reap river in Siem Reap town during the annual Water Festival earlier this month.

Circus takes centre stage

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via CAAI

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 15:00 Sovan Philong

Contortionist Arisa Meguro, 22, of the Sori International Circus School in Japan, performs at the French Cultural Centre in Phnom Penh as part of the seventh edition of the Tini Tinou international circus festival. The month-long festival, held at venues in both the capital and Battambang province, plays host to more than 140 participants this year from 10 different countries.

Photographer released after court ordeal

Photo by: Lim Sokchalina
Photographer Go Takayama participates in a discussion at the Angkor Photo Festival workshop in Siem Reap last month.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 20:11 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Japanese photojournalist Go Takayama and two Cambodians were released from jail yesterday following a hearing in Siem Reap Provincial Court, during which charges of producing pornography and photographing teenage sex workers were withdrawn.

“The court has dropped its charges against Go Takayama and two Cambodians after [yesterday’s] hearing,” said provincial prosecutor Ty Soveinthal.

Takayama and two Cambodian colleagues, a male and female, were arrested on November 24 and charged with producing pornography after they were accused of photographing teenage sex workers in a brothel in Siem Reap.

Jessica Lim, coordinator assistant for the Angkor Photo Festival, said that the verdict was a welcome relief for the accused and for the festival, which supported Takayama in the project he was working on in Siem Reap at the time of his arrest.

“It is certainly very unfortunate what happened, but we are very happy with the court’s decision,” Lim said yesterday following the court’s verdict.

“Clearly, there was a misunderstanding of the context of the photos, but we are glad that the court’s verdict shows us that they understand.

“The lawyer explained to the court the project Mr Takayama was working on and the photos he was taking, and fortunately the court understood the context of his work.”

Lim said earlier this week that the photos at the heart of the case consisted exclusively of clothed shots of a married couple, and were shot as part of a project for the festival based on the Cambodian folktale “The Seven Colour Princess”.

Takayama’s female subject posed in a T-shirt and sarong, later removing the T-shirt to reveal a bra, while the male subject posed in shorts and no shirt.

Chea Heng, deputy chief of Siem Reap’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection office, said Takayama had hired the couple to help him shoot illicit photos.

“He has taken many naked photos of teenage women in brothels in Siem Reap,” Chea Heng said earlier this week.

Sours Vanarin, a provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc who represented Takayama and his colleagues in court, was satisfied with the verdict.

“I warmly welcome the court’s decision in dropping the charges against these suspected people, and I think that this decision brings justice to them,” he said.

He added that police would return all seized equipment and photographs to Takayama.

Lim said the incident would have little impact on the annual festival’s efforts to bring photographic artists together and support new work.

“We will continue holding the photography workshops as we have done for many years, and we strongly believe in bringing together Asian photographers in Siem Reap; that is not going to change at all.”

The case against Takayama drew the attention of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which issued a statement earlier this week urging the Cambodian government to release him and saying that “it seems clear that he is a responsible photographer caught up in a misunderstanding, and should not be treated as a criminal”.

Independent stampede probe nixed

via CAAI

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 18:25 Meas Sokchea

National Assembly president Heng Samrin has rejected an opposition request that the parliament establish a special commission to probe last month’s bridge stampede.

In the letter, dated Friday and obtained yesterday, Heng Samrin said a parliamentary enquiry was unnecessary, given the previous government investigation into the tragedy.

“There is no need to establish [this special committee], because the royal government has already arranged it completely,” Heng Samrin wrote.

353 people lost their lives, and a further 395 were injured when thousands of Water Festival revelers panicked on a bridge leading to Diamond Island, triggering a stampede.

The government’s official response to the tragedy, released a week later, determined it was an accident triggered by the swaying of the suspension bridge. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced no officials will be held responsible for the incident, describing it as a “joint mistake”.

Heng Samrin’s letter followed a request from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, dated November 30, which requested that a special parliamentary commission be established to investigate the disaster, including representatives from all political parties that have seats in parliament.

The SRP argued a new commission was necessary because the government’s investigation did not assign responsibility for the incident.

Acting SRP spokesman Kimsour Phirith yesterday blasted Heng Samrin’s refusal, saying the government is constitutionally bound to conduct an independent inquiry.

“We cannot accept this response because it shows that the assembly is under the government’s power,” he said.

“Constitutional law states clearly that the institution of the assembly is independent and when there are such incidents, the assembly – elected by the people – must also investigate.”

Kimsour Phirith said that in most democratic countries, such a disaster would trigger far-reaching probes. As an example, he cited the 9/11 Commission, set up to investigate the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Hang Chhaya, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, urged Heng Samrin to take the SRP’s request into consideration.

“The opposition party wants to help and to have a complete investigation. This special motive should be taken into account by the assembly,” he said.

Banks in the good books

via CAAI

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 20:43 May Kunmakara and Catherine James

All of the Kingdom’s 30 commercial banks are set to meet National Bank of Cambodia requirements to triple their minimum capital by December 31, according to NBC officials.

Thai Saphear, head of the governor’s office at the NBC cabinet, told The Post that the banks were prepared to meet the deadline imposed by the central bank.

“I know that all the commercial banks have met and complied with the requirement – they don’t have any problem,” he said.

The NBC issued a prakas, or edict, in September 2008 requiring banks to triple the minimum amount of registered capital from 50 billion riel (US$12.3 million) to 150 billion riel by the last day of 2010.

Thai Saphear said the result reflected the strength of the Kingdom’s financial and banking industries.

The statements surprised some industry insiders, who expected the new requirements would lead to smaller banks closing or merging.

ANZ Royal Bank Chief Executive Stephen Higgins said he had expected some consolidation in the sector.

“It is surprising that some of these smaller banks found it financially sensible to inject this additional capital given the lack of lending opportunities available,” he said.

The prakas, which the NBC said was aimed at strengthening the sector, could create a barrier to growth because there was a risk of banks being over capitalised and less attractive to investors, according to Madi Akmambet, chief executive of the Advanced Bank of Asia.

“From shareholders and potential investors’ point of view, overcapitalised banks seem to be less attractive for new investments,” he said, adding the ABA had met the requirement with additional contributions from shareholders.

Dieter Billmeier, vice president at Canadia Bank, said he supported the prakas, calling it “good and wise, since it will strengthen the overall capital adequacy and liquidity ratios for risk exposures of the financial industry as a whole”.

NBC Director General Tal Nay Im had previously said she expected some banks would have to withdraw with the new requirements.

Yesterday, she told The Post that banks were making the effort to comply with the new requirements, though stopped short of saying all banks had met the deadline.

“The process is almost complete with good results,” she said.

Chase for buried treasure

Photo by: James O'Toole
A monk stands next to the spot at Wat Ratanak Sophoan where residents say local authorities attempted to dig for buried Khmer Rouge treasure this past August.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 22:12 May Titthara and James O’Toole

Wat Ratanak Sophoan sits at the top of a hill along a quiet road in Pailin town, and as with most of the rest of the sedate provincial capital, is typically a peaceful setting.

Bright orange monks’ robes sit drying on fences, with the Cardamom Mountains visible in the distance, while children play in the yard out front.

Aside from Pailin residents living nearby, the pagoda attracts few visitors. Its tranquility was disrupted in August of this year, however, when locals say about 100 police and soldiers descended on the pagoda in search of a cache of gold and gems allegedy buried by the Khmer Rouge.

Noan Sophen, the deputy abbot of Ratanak Sophoan, said at the time that the party had been ordered to dig at the pagoda by Y Chhean, the governor of Pailin province and a former bodyguard for Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. The effort ultimately proved fruitless, however, as the security forces were confronted by monks and some 2,000 Pailin residents who turned them back from the complex.

Although locals are divided on whether riches are actually to be found at the site, they say this confrontation was just the latest round in a years-long saga of rumour and deception surrounding the allegedly buried treasure.

While international mining firms have been drawn in recent years to gold deposits in the Kingdom’s eastern provinces, Pailin has long been identified with its gems. Small polished rubies and sapphires are still available from local jewelers, but locals acknowledge that business has slowed over the years; in earlier decades, however, the booming gem trade provided crucial funding to the Khmer Rouge resistance, which had staked out positions against the Hun Sen government in Pailin and elsewhere along the Thai border.

Illegal logging revenue also played a part in sustaining the resistance, but from the gem trade alone, the Khmer Rouge collected perhaps US $3.8 million per month in the early 1990s, some scholars estimate. In addition to mining the stones themselves, they also earned money by selling mining concessions to Thai companies, charging them protection fees and levying taxes at the border.

Benny Widyono, a former peacekeeper with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia and UN governor for Siem Reap province, said in an email that the relative prosperity of Pailin was evident during a 1992 trip he made to the region as “wine taster” for then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

“I ... observed a non-stop parade of Thai trucks hauling away logs and also Thai gem traders coming for Pailin stones,” Widyono said. Electricity was available 24 hours a day, he noted, compared with just two hours a day at that time in Siem Reap.

“The KR in the Pailin area were really the rich KR as against the Anlong Veng poor guys. They lived well and nobody defected to the [government] area,” Widyono said.

These years of resource exploitation took their toll on the landscape, however, and many residents believe the area is now all but denuded of gems. So relentless were the miners, said 17-year-old Khiev Odam, a monk at Wat Ratanak Sophoan, that if treasure had ever been buried at the pagoda, it would have been discovered already.

“I can’t believe that there are any more gold or gems here, because the Thais used to dig up all the land here and refill it with new land instead,” he said.

Others say the treasure is simply well-hidden, buried deep in the ground by Khmer Rouge members following their retreat from Phnom Penh.

Sokha, a 60-year-old layman at the pagoda who declined to give his family name, said he believed there were in fact riches buried at the site, claiming local officials had showed up earlier this year in the middle of the night to examine the area with metal detectors.

“If there were no gold, the provincial governor would not let them come to dig for it,” he said.

Widyono said it was “definitely possible that a stash of gold is buried there”.

“1979 was a confused year,” he said. “For the first time after the KR took over, Cambodians could criss-cross the country anywhere they wanted. The KR at the time already planned to have Pailin as their last stand, and it would be natural to bury the gold there.”

Marking the spot

During a recent visit to Wat Ratanak Sophoan – where the walls are decorated with Burmese script, a reflection of the years of migration to the area by Burmese to work in the gem trade – a group of young monks led a tour of the pagoda. They pointed out a square patch of dirt outside their dormitory where the treasure is thought to be buried, which, lacking the proverbial “X”, was adorned only with weeds and an empty M-150 bottle.

Just a few metres beyond the site is the home of Mao Kroeung, 73, a nun who said she had been living outside the pagoda for 12 years. She expressed doubt that any gold or gems were buried at the site, but said the area had been subject to intrigue in years past.

In 2004, she said, an elderly layman known to local residents as “Ta Sokha” was murdered at his home. During the funeral, Mao Kroeung added, several anonymous individuals snuck into the pagoda and began digging at the spot in question, a claim echoed by monk Duong Sarath and several other residents who declined to be cited by name.

“Unknown people shot him to death, but they did not take any of his property,” Mao Kroeung said. “That layman knew everything about this pagoda, so that means they were afraid he would give information about the gold to somebody else.”

Duong Sarath said that on the morning of the confrontation this past August, a group of seven men came to the pagoda in the pre-dawn hours to examine the alleged site of the treasure. Later in the morning, he said, dozens of police and soldiers returned to the pagoda with an excavator, preparing to dig.

“The police officers said the provincial authorities had ordered them to dig up the land here to find the gold, but they didn’t have any letter of permission to show us, so we did not allow them to dig,” he said.

Instead, a group of monks reportedly blocked the visiting forces at the entryway, while others beat a drum inside the temple to rally local residents. Shortly thereafter, Duong Sarath said, roughly 2,000 people had joined the 140 monks to prevent the pagoda’s land from being torn up.

“We don’t want them to dig for gold because we’re afraid there will be problems if they find it, like when the layman was killed,” Duong Sarath said.

Y Chhean and other members of the provincial government could not be reached for comment, though Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said following the incident that he had spoken with Y Chhean and had confirmed that no further action would be taken.

“This will not be allowed because it is a pagoda, and it is a separate place for worship,” Khieu Sopheak said. “Sometimes it’s just a rumour, and in the process of destroying the place they would get nothing.”

Standing outside Wat Ratanak Sophoan, the name of which can be roughly translated as “decorated treasure”, 60-year-old Um Eng said he believed the police and soldiers had come to steal the treasure and split the spoils with high-ranking officials. Estimates of the total amount buried, he said, ranged from 50 kilograms to 20 tonnes; speaking in French-accented English, however, he declined to offer his own guess.

“There are many secret histories of the régime Pol Pot,” he said.

Sweet deal for the Kingdom

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A man rides a bicycle past a sugarcane field. Cambodia is set to add three more sugar plantations next year, according to officials

via CAAI

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 20:36 Chun Sophal

Three companies plan to begin producing sugar cane on 50,000 hectares next year, which government officials say will help the Kingdom replace imports of the staple sweetener.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun told The Post that the firms – from Thailand, India, and Cambodia – planned to establish plantations and processing factories in Kampong Speu, Kratie, and Oddar Meancheay provinces.

“We hope that with the farming and processing operations, Cambodia will be able to produce [enough] sugar to meet domestic demand so we can stop importing sugar.”

The Kampong Speu project was owned by a Cambodian investor, he said, though he declined to release the companies’ names or the size of the investment.

However, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Chief of Cabinet Hong Narit told The Post last month that Indian company Kamadeno Venture Cambodia had been granted a concession to grow sugarcane and set up a processing plant on nearly 8,000 hectares in Kratie province’s Sambour district.

Mong Reththy, chairman of Mong Reththy Group and president of the government private-sector working group on agriculture and agro-industry, said Cambodia had sugarcane producing potential.

However, he said the industry was not an easy one because it required drive from investors, as the industry faced human resources challenges and required large amounts of capital.

To grow sugarcane on 10,000 hectares of land and set up a processing plant would require at least US$100 million of capital, he said.

“We support idea of expanding sugar processing industry in Cambodia because it is not only a great project to meet domestic demand, but also a good opportunity for export,” Mong Reththy said.

Cambodia largely uses sugar imported from neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam as it has only one sugarcane processing plant, located in Koh Kong province.

The Koh Kong plant would be able to produce about 24,000 tonnes of sugar per year, Prime Minister Hun Sen said at its launch in January.

He said that was less domestic production than demand warranted, so that Cambodia needed to motivate farmers to grow more sugarcane in the future.

Hun Sen cited a study from 2000 that found every Cambodian needed 7.3 kilograms of sugar per year.

Fish crisis on state radar

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Forty-five-year-old Elim cleans his net after returning from a fishing trip on the Tonle Sap river yesterday. The fisheries administration is working to improve yields in the Kingdom.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 19:52 Matt Lundy

Fisheries officials said yesterday the government was working hard to improve national fish yields, but deflected blame for slow progress on over-fishing, which they said would continue to threaten the long-term sustainability of fish populations.

“When we talk about over-fishing, it’s the fishermen who do this,” said Nao Thouk, director of the Fisheries Administration. “It’s not me who has done this.”

Nao Thouk was speaking at a national conference in Phnom Penh, convened to analyse fisheries management and development since reforms were instituted in the early 2000s.

Nao Thouk’s comments came following a prediction he made in October, when he said 2010’s fish yields were set to decline by 30 percent on last year.

He admitted the Fisheries Administration was “not perfect”, but pointed to government programs that have released freshwater prawns and hatchlings into provincial fishing lots as a way to boost populations.

Nao Thouk said 120,000 freshwater prawns were released at a fishing lot in Pursat province in September.

“Now these prawns are very big, the size of this microphone,” he said from the podium, adding that the administration planned to free 500,000 more prawns in July.

The fisheries sector underwent significant changes in 2001, when 540,000 hectares of commercial fishing lots were released as public access lots under a community-based management scheme. Prior to its establishment, Prime Minister Hun Sen described fisheries officers as “leeches that suck the people’s blood”.

Om Savath, acting director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, which organised the conference, said corruption remains an issue.

“We don’t say that all Fisheries Administration officials [are corrupt], but some are getting under-the-table payments to allow illegal fishing,” he said. “Some fishermen are guilty too.”

Under the 2006 Fisheries Law, 14 fishing methods are banned, including the use of batteries and mosquito nets.

Dream for Wedding Ends in Stampede Tragedy

December 07, 2010

Soura Saly had hoped to return to Cambodia from where he worked in Malaysia to marry the girl of his dreams. Instead, he was summoned to attend her funeral. His 23-year-old fiancé, Res Marina, was one of more than 350 people killed in last month's Water Festival bridge tragedy. Broken-hearted, he said he sleeps with her dresses. VOA Khmer's Pich Samnang reports from the family home of Res Marina, on the outskirts of northern Phnom Penh.

US Navy Conducts Charity & Strenghtens Coorperation With Cambodian Navy

Siddikur aims to inspire at Cambodian Open

via CAAI

AFP, Dec 8, 2010

SIEM REAP: History-maker Siddikur of Bangladesh hopes to live up to tag as an inspirational role model for his countrymen when he tees off at the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open on Thursday.

Since graduating from the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2009, the 26-year-old has ignited the dreams of many of his compatriots who are yearning to find similar success on the Asian Tour.

Siddikur became the first man from Bangladesh to win a title on the Asian Tour at the Brunei Open in August.

After his historic win in Brunei, Siddikur narrowly missed out on his second Asian Tour title in Taiwan after losing in a playoff to Thailand's Pariya Junhasavasdikul in October.

But he continued to show his potential by outperforming some of the best players in the world in high-profile events in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong in the following months.

He had another noteworthy tied-fifth finish in India last week and will start the week in Cambodia as one of the hot favourites to win the $300,000 event that is now into its fourth edition.

"My form is very good and I'm looking forward to this week in Cambodia. I started playing well after the Queen's Cup in Koh Samui and since then I've managed to achieve many good results," said Siddikur, who grew up in a poor family where his father worked as a farmer and taxi driver to raise a family of four sons.

Siddikur worked as a ball boy and caddie at the Kurmitola Golf Club in Dhaka to fund his education.

"To be honest, I don't really see myself as a superstar despite the widespread publicity on my achievements back home," he said.

"I'm just happy to do my part in growing the popularity of golf in my country. It's nice to know that I've set the benchmark for my countrymen to follow."

Siddikur will be up against a host of elite players at the Phokeethra Country Club, including defending champion Marcus Both of Australia and Singapore's Mardan Mamat, as well as Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant and Thongchai Jaidee, who jointly hold the highest number of Asian Tour victories.

As the penultimate event on the 2010 Asian Tour schedule before the season finale King's Cup in Hua Hin, the battle for playing rights for next season will also intensify, with players aiming for a good finish to earn their full playing rights for next season.

Fortress Islands: US pushes Koreas to War?

Posted by RussiaToday
December 07, 2010

The South Korean President has vowed to turn five islands near the tense border with the North into military fortresses. It comes after the latest round of U.S.-led talks on North Korea failed to ease tensions on the peninsula. The latest push to militarise the area near the border comes as the U.S. and the South hold live-fire naval drills there. The exercises prompted Pyongyang to accuse Seoul of provocation. The situation remains fragile after the two neighbours exchanged fire late last month. The attack killed two South Korean Marines and two civilians. Sara Flounders from the New York-based International Action Center claims the U.S. is deliberately working to push the peninsular to the brink of war.