Monday, 27 December 2010

Cambodia: New penal code undercuts free speech

via CAAI

Dec 27th, 2010
By Bikya Masr Staff 

NEW YORK: The Cambodian government’s use of its new penal code against a man who shared web articles with his co-workers is a huge step backward for free expression in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said last week.

The man was quickly convicted on incitement charges and sentenced to prison.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to amend the penal code, which went into effect on December 10, 2010, to remove provisions that limit the peaceful expression of political views so that the law fully complies with international standards.

“Charging someone with incitement for sharing web articles is a profound setback for free expression in Cambodia,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Cambodia’s new penal code should have put an end to abusive practices, not encouraged new ones.”

On December 17, Seng Kunnaka, a Cambodian employee with the United Nations World Food Program in Phnom Penh, was arrested on charges of incitement under article 495 of the new penal code after he shared an article with two co-workers. While the contents of the article are unclear, it was printed from KI-Media, a website that publishes news, commentaries, poetry, and cartoons that are sharply critical of the government, including a recent series of opinion pieces lambasting senior officials regarding a border dispute with Vietnam.

On December 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court hastily tried and convicted Kunnaka, sentencing him to six months in prison and fining him 1 million riels (US$250). December 19 was a Sunday, when the courts are normally closed.

During the last two years, more than 10 critics of the government, including journalists and opposition party activists, have been prosecuted for criminal defamation and disinformation based on complaints by government and military officials under the former penal code.

The new penal code places greater restrictions on free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Responding to media inquiries about the case, Cambodia’s information minister, Khieu Kanharith, said: “Before, using the argument of ‘freedom of expression’ and opposition party status, some people could insult anybody or any institution. This is not the case now.”

“A dubious arrest so soon after the new penal code came into effect shows that the Cambodian government is ready to use its new legal powers to criminalize peaceful expression and political dissent,” Robertson said. “And Cambodia’s pliant courts seem all too willing to throw any perceived government critic in prison after a rushed trial.”

Under the new penal code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates “serious turmoil in society” through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication that are shared with, exposed to, or intended for the public. It does not require the alleged incitement to be effective for penalties to be imposed, which include prison terms of six months to five years and fines.

The new penal code also allows criminal prosecutions for defamation and contempt for peaceful expression of views “affecting the dignity” of individuals and public officials, as well as of government institutions. It makes it a crime to “disturb public order” by questioning court decisions.

“The new penal code makes it more risky for civil society activists to criticize corrupt officials, police, and military officers who commit abuses or question court decisions,” Robertson said. “This is particularly troubling in Cambodia, where the judicial system is weak and far from independent, with court decisions often influenced by corruption or political pressure.”

KI-Media is a controversial website that describes itself as “dedicated to publishing sensitive information about Cambodia.” The website’s editors, who have never publicly identified themselves, compile information from a variety of sources, including leaked and public government documents, Cambodian-language newspaper articles, and Chinese, Cambodian, and Western wire service reports. It also posts hard-hitting commentaries, blog articles, cartoons, and poetry from its readers – most of whom are sharply critical of the government.

Cambodia's legislature passes ASEAN transport service agreements

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 27, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- The Cambodian National Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted the draft law of the ASEAN multilateral agreement on the full liberalization of air freight services and the ASEAN multilateral agreement on the full liberalization of passenger air services.

Nin Saphon, chairwoman of the commission on public works and construction of the National Assembly, said during the debate that the two agreements were to create air freight and passenger services freely, transparently and competitively with high effectiveness among ASEAN countries.

"The agreements will accelerate open sky arrangements and advance liberalization in air transport services, especially air freight services and air passenger services," she said.

"The two agreements will help Cambodia to attract more tourists and investment through air transport services from countries in the region and in the world," she said. "It will also build more confidence from foreign airline companies, especially airlines in ASEAN."

Mao Havanal, secretary of state of the secretariat of civil aviation, said during the debate that the agreements were committed to deepen and broaden the internal economic integration and linkages with the world economy to realize an ASEAN Economic Community.

"The agreements are to remove restrictions, on a gradual basis, so as to achieve greater flexibility and capacity in the operation of air freight services and air passenger services in ASEAN with a view to building a single unified aviation market of ASEAN by 2015, " he said.

The two agreements were signed on May 20, 2009 in Manila, the Philippines by the heads of the civil aviation of the 10 ASEAN countries.

ASEAN countries consist of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

(Source: Quotemedia)

Child Sponsorship Report 2010, from Phnom Penh, Cambodia

via CAAI
Dec 27, 2010

Dear sponsor,

It is my pleasure to write to you and tell you more about the life at the SOS Children’s Village Phnom Penh. We hope you enjoy reading and knowing more about the families and their lives at the village.

Up to date we have provided a family to 181 children who 1 of them have been embraced this year. She has been provided with all necessary needs so she always feel belong to her family. She can later overcome the trauma of losing her environment, friends and family from where she comes. She has found in the SOS Children’s Village Phnom Penh a loving home. The youngest child is under 3 years old and the oldest child is 21 years old. We have been organising Khmer Traditional Dancing every Sunday morning, football training every Thursday & Saturday, Karate-do every Saturday evening & Sunday morning. We organize English class in village for elementary level everyday. Simultaneously they also study out side the village for the beginner & Newspaper class everyday. They all enjoy studying all this Programme. On March 13, 2010 SOS girl team joined football match at Old Stadium. This match was for the friendship and was organized by Indochina Start Fish, supported by Barclay Capital Bank.

SOS Nursery provides education to our children and the children from the neighbourhood. The SOS Nursery is in the village and you can hear children laughing in every group. This is a place which is never quiet! Up to 125 children between the ages 3-6 attend SOS Nursery. The availability of suitable classrooms, game and toys ensures that the children are given the optimum conditions for developing their social, intellectual and creative skills and they are prepared for the primary school.

Presently, three Youth Houses are functioning in Phnom Penh. 21 youngsters are living in I youth house, 24 youngsters in II youth house and 21 youngsters in III youth house. Some of them have already started vocational training course, attended University and some get higher education.

Simultaneously there are 2 youths have found a part-time job. They want to get experience during studying.

The mothers and Aunts from the SOS Children’s Village are regularly receiving literacy training Programmeme in order to help reinforce their level of understanding, improving their work and responsibilities and allowing them to better support their children’s care and education. They also received training on the SOS Village manual and Child Protection Policy for better understanding.

In order to make children more interested in their life, we always promote their developments, activities and events which organized within and outside the village.

On the 1st June, International Children’s Day a joint entertaining activity was arranged at SOS Nursery in village. All mothers, children and co-workers participated in the event. All the children get up early to made up and dress up neatly. All children enjoyed playing with many game such as banana eating competition, pair running competition and dancing game competition. There were many question relating to the rights of the children are prepared for children. They can answer all the questions. They also received the gifts from the committee. They all were joyful and know well about the International Children’s Day.

During the Vacation, youth leader and youths went away on a trip to Kampong Som Province. They took between 3 and 4 hours to reach Kampng Som Province. There are several popular beaches in the provincial Centre of the Kompong Som Province such as Victorial, Independence, Sokha, O Chheu Teal, and O Tres. They have visited all that beaches. They were happy to see the clean white sandy beach, the crystal clear ocean and palm trees. After they finished lunch they took a rest for one hour. Then they swimmed togther. They enjoyed it very much and had a wonderful time!

Your kind help enables us to do work. Therefore on behalf of all us I would like to thank you and convey our gratitude and appreciation.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs. Meas Mala
Senior Co-worker Sponsorship

TCT Cyclists Training Near Thailand-Cambodia Border

via CAAI

KUALA TERENGGANU, Dec 27 (Bernama) -- Terengganu Pro-Asia Cycling Team (TCT)is training in Chanrai near the Thailand-Cambodia border in preparation for Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) next month.

"The three import cyclists who had been training in Chanrai since Dec 19 will be joined by nine Terengganu cyclists starting Dec 30," said assistant coach Syed Husaini Syed Mazlan.

The three import cyclists in third phase training are Shinichi Fukushima who also acts as coach and Motoi Nara of Japan and Phuchong Udomsin of Thailand.

The Terengganu cyclists are Anuar Manan, Mohd Harrif Salleh, Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin, Yusrizal Usoff, Mohammad Saufi Mat Senan, Mohamad Faiz Sharifuddin Abd Kadir, Mohd Shobry Abdullah, Mohd Nor Umardi Rosdi and Nur Amirull Fakhruddin Mazuki.

Husaini said the fourth and final phase would be from Jan 23-Feb 1 before wrapping up training here.

Focus would be on pedalling, mental strength and teamwork to make TCT all fired up for the pretigious championship.

The cyclists were also involved in the National Grand Prix Final in Jasin, Melaka yesterday, the second phase of training.

"I am satisfied with the riders who showed good team spirit," he added.

Cambodia's success in tackling HIV/AIDS threatened

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH (December 27, 2010) : Cambodia's widely hailed efforts in tackling HIV/AIDS are under threat with foreign donors likely to cut funding over the next two decades, a study said on December 22. "The success that Cambodia has had with its AIDS programme is at risk because of the possibility that external partners will withdraw financial support too quickly," said Richard Skolnik of the Results for Development Institute (R4D).

The Cambodian government will have to spend more of its own money in the fight against the virus, study co-ordinator Skolnik added.

New HIV infections have dropped from around 15,500 annually in the early 1990s to about 2,100 in 2009. And around 93 percent of 33,500 AIDS patients who are eligible are receiving anti-retroviral treatment.

External partners fund 90 percent of the country's AIDS programme, which currently costs just over 50 million dollars a year.

But as a result of the global financial crisis and a shift in donor priorities, those funds are likely to shrink in the coming years and Cambodia "will need to significantly increase its own allocation", the report states.

The study, "The Long-Run Costs and Financing of HIV/AIDS in Cambodia", was compiled by a team of government officials with assistance from UNAIDS and US-based R4D, which specialises in health policy analysis.

The authors compared several financing scenarios from now until 2031, four decades after HIV/AIDS was first detected in Cambodia.

Each option has a different price tag and a different rate of success in preventing new infections, and all assume the government and external donors will eventually split the costs evenly.

Luxury market the key for cambodia

via CAAI

Published: 27/12/2010

Didier Lamoot is the general manager of the new $50 million, 201-room five-star Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra hotel. He has opened hotels across the world, in markets as diverse as Mauritius and Tunisia. Ahead of Sofitel's soft launch this past weekend, he talked to Soeun Say of the Phnom Penh Post about Cambodia's potential.

Q: What do you think about Cambodia's hotel industry and what is your general perception of the Kingdom?

A: In 2004 to 2005, a lot of people were asking, "Why build a luxury hotel in Phnom Penh?" All upscale hotels were losing money by that time, as occupancy and room rates were really below average.

But by 2007 to 2008, all professionals from our sector were pushing us to open, as they needed more luxury rooms. Times are changing fast and Phnom Penh is following the trend, maybe more than anywhere else in the main Southeast Asian capitals.

What potential did hotel investors see in Phnom Penh?

Confidence in the future - Phnom Penh is on the map to attract more businessmen, investors, and tourists. It is the domestic hub of Cambodia.

As a newcomer in the capital, what is your strategy to gain market share?

Since 2009, we have noticed a change in the way people were using hospitality. The habits and expectations of the different type of clients are not so framed anymore.

A businessman will need all the corporate and exclusive services, especially high and efficient [internet] connectivity, but also all resort facilities in one - colonial style with high technology combined together.

Also, the hotel must have space. Our location by the river, in a beautiful park, makes our hotel very attractive.

What do you think about Cambodia's hotel services compared to other countries in the region, such as Vietnam, Thailand or Laos?

I'm used to saying that the first wonder of Cambodia is the Khmer culture. The people are very service oriented. In 2007, the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra [in Siem Reap] was awarded 100% for service among a list of the 500 best hotels over the world. Only 10 hotels worldwide were ranked 100%. Cambodia can be proud of this achievement, due to the kindness and professionalism of its people.

Do you see any effort by the government to improve hotel services to meet international standards?

The Ministry of Tourism under the leadership of Dr Thong Khon is very active in helping and structuring our sector of activity. The private sector works very well with the public sector to achieve the classification of the hotels and restaurants, strategy, marketing, communication.

The concept of a clean city, clean hotels and good service raises the quality level to international standards for all.

In the first six months of 2010 just 37 hotels in the Kingdom's had registered for a star rating following a 2004 sub-decree. What do you think of this, in comparison to the region?

Our industry has started to be structured in the right way under the Minister of Tourism orientation. This takes time. Even if we are a little bit behind, we [will] go very fast. Very soon we will be at the same level, even above that of the other countries in Asean.

Can you compare the hotel market in Cambodia to Thailand and Vietnam?

Khmer culture makes the difference from a service prospective. In addition, our neighbours are more targeting mass tourism and we cannot compete with this strategy. Cambodia is a luxury destination. We must target this segment as a priority.

The people, the history, the archaeology, the seaside and the quality of natural agriculture - like rice from Battambang, pepper from Kampot, the sugar palm, the freshness of the fish from the Tonle Sap - the biodiversity, not having polluting industries, is what people is expecting.

We have all [these things] in one and we must communicate that. The upgrade of the infrastructure will contribute to attracting travellers.

How did the economic crisis affect the sector and what are its future challenges?

We had the economic and a political crisis at Preah Vihear at the same time the average spend per visitor decreased a lot. Also, the market changed in 2008 to 2009.

Many professionals could resist [booking] thanks to their ability to use better distribution channels, mainly through internet. But the appropriate answer was to maintain quality and consistency of products and services.

The most important [challenge] is to develop to coast to become a full destination.

We need our tourists to book one week at the beach and to do an extension to Siem Reap all year long. Air France will fly starting in March to Phnom Penh - this is fantastic news for the future. We need to have domestic flights with proper services, schedules and destinations, especially to Sihanoukville. That is the priority.

Chinese ambassador hails UCB

UCB Chief Executive Oknha Yum Sui Sang holds one side of the framed certificate authorising the new UCB branch as National Bank of Cambodia Deputy Governor Neav Chanthana holds the other. Next to her is China’s Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guang Xue and to Yum’s right is Juliana Lam, shareholder’s representative for the Union Commercial Bank. Photo by Stuart Alan Becker.

via CAAI

Friday, 26 November 2010 15:02 Post Staff

CHINA’S ambassador to Cambodia showed up at the grand opening of the Olympic Market branch of the Union Commercial Bank on November 17, lending some weight to UCB’s expansion plans and underscoring the bank’s close relationship with China.

Ambassador Pan Guang Xue made the first cut on the ribbon, followed by Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia Neav Chanthana as UCB’s Chief Executive Officer Oknha Yum Sui Sang also welcomed Jin Yuan, the economic and commercial counselor from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China and at least 50 other dignitaries at the opening.

Yum said UCB had embarked on a programme of expanding physical presence in Phnom Penh at strategic locations “where there is real and urgent need for closer and better procession of services to our customers”.

Yum also serves as Chairman of The China Hong Kong & Macau Expatriate & Business Association in Cambodia, an association that was founded by businessmen from Hong Kong and Macau to expand their businesses – many of them garment factory owners.

At the recent opening ceremony, Yum said he hoped UCB’s Olympic branch would be the first of many such branches to open in Phnom Penh in the coming years.

“As the bank broadens its outreach to its existing and new customers and brings our brand of service to the citizens of Phnom Penh, we will continue to stress our commitment to customers and their needs,” he said.

Yum took pride in UCB’s actions during the July 1997 period of civil strife and military action – when they took the decision to keep regular banking services open even as tanks rolled around the streets.

“We will strive to continue our tradition of being always available to service the customer, just like we did during the stormy and eventful days in July 1997 when we continued to allow normal banking services including unlimited cash withdrawals because we strongly believe the needs of the customers is greater than our need for caution,” Yum said.

“Today we strongly believe this policy of fulfilling the customers’ needs first has received wide support from our customers and we hope to bring this brand of service and our commitment to a wider audience.”

Yum said UCB had recognised the changing face of Phnom Penh and its ever growing population.

“Phnom Penh is growing fast in business and commerce, and this will increase the wealth of the people,” Yum said.

The Union Commercial Bank has branches in Siem Reap, Battambang, Sihanoukville with a head office in Phnom Penh as well as the new Olympic Market branch.

UCB specialises in personal banking services including credit cards, loans and trade finance and always puts the customer first.

Swiss national held on child-sex charges

via CAAI

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:01 Sen David

PREAH Sihanouk provincial court yesterday charged a Swiss national with committing indecent acts with four underage boys during a holiday to Sihanoukville.

The 79-year-old holidaymaker was arrested on Saturday night after he arose suspicions among NGOs and local officials, said Kim Eng, deputy director of the provincial court.

Kim Eng said the accused has denied to police that he had committed any indecent acts with minors, but said there was “enough proof” to charge the man.

Cho Heang, deputy provincial police chief yesterday, said police started investigating the accused after his suspicious behaviour drew the attention of local authorities.

“During his holiday we thought that he sexually harassed little children, and on the last day we arrested him, we saw him persuading a boy to commit sexual acts on O’Chheuteal beach,” he said.

Soun Sophan, deputy director the provincial anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said investigations into the Swiss national started on December 20.

“We suspect that he sexually harassed four boys during the time of his stay in Sihanoukville, all of whom were under the age of 15 years,” he said.

Cheap Sotheary, provincial monitor for local rights group Adhoc, said child-sex offenders continued to be a problem in the popular beach town.

“Most of the local children at the beach are very poor and try to sell souvenirs to tourists, but all of them are at risk of sexual harassment or indecent acts if someone persuades them,” Cheap Sotheary said. “I’m worried because their parents do not care about the impacts.”

City court frees rape suspects

via CAAI

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court released two men on Saturday, after they were arrested for kidnapping a beer hostess and abusing her for two days at one of the men’s apartments in Russey Keo district.

The suspects – a 39-year-old brother of a tycoon and a 45-year-old military officer – were arrested Friday, a day after the victim escaped from the apartment.

Despite police confiscating condoms, methamphetamines, pornography and a marital aid as evidence that the victim was raped and forced to take drugs, one Russey Keo police official alleged that the pair paid a bribe to secure their freedom.

“The two men should have been punished for their illegal and brutal acts against the victim, but instead senior police officials conspired with court officials and accepted a bribe from the suspects,” said the official, who declined to be named.

Soam Bunny, Russey Keo district police chief, denied the allegations.

“We didn’t take bribes from the two men but referred the case to the court,” he said. “I can’t say why the court released the two men but it was for reasons different from the allegations”.

Deputy court prosecutor Chek Khemara declined to comment when contacted.

Animal attacks: Two bitten by escaped black bear

via CAAI

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Animal attacks

TWO villagers were seriously injured after being attacked by a large male black bear that escaped from Phnom Tamao Zoo in Takeo province on Thursday, said Seng Saroeun, deputy police chief of Trapaing Sap commune.

Son Tim, a 50-year-old farmer from the commune’s Trapaing Sap village, sustained serious wounds on his leg and hand when he tried to catch the escaped bear in his rice field on Friday. Meanwhile, Minh Chan, 57, was injured in the leg on the same day while trying to chase the escapee out of her watermelon patch, said Seng Sarouen.

He said the victims were rescued by villagers and were immediately sent to the district health centre, adding that the zoo would pay for their treatment.

Nhem Thy, deputy director of Phnom Tamao Zoo, said that the male bear escaped on Thursday night by digging a hole to escape from his cage.

“We sent our staff to catch it when we received reports that it bit villagers in Trapaing Sap village and we shot it with tranquiliser darts,” he said. He said the bear was then safely returned to its cage in the zoo.

“I noted that this bear is cruel and the reason it bit people is because it was frequently violated by people,” he said.

Group criticises draft legislation on NGOs

via CAAI

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 Vong Sokheng and Thomas Miller

THE government’s draft NGO law is “burdensome” and provides the government with the unchecked authority to restrict the activities of NGOs in Cambodia, according to a new report from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

Registration of NGOs under the draft law, made public December 15, is “particularly onerous” for small or provincial organisations, which will be required to re-register, the report stated.

“A balance needs to be struck between satisfying the legitimate and reasonable concerns of the Royal Government of Cambodia and allowing associations and non-governmental organisations the freedom to carry out their positive and beneficial activities,” it said.

Ou Virak, president of CCHR, said he expects 25 percent of an estimated 3,000 NGOs in Cambodia will be forced to end their activities because of the registration process alone.

The requirement of foreign NGOs to “collaborate with relevant ministries or institutions of the [government] when preparing project plans, implementing, monitoring, aggregating and evaluating the result of implemented activities” (Article 36) is “unnecessary and extremely onerous”, the report said. It will also likely result in “significant” delays to NGO activities.


We’re not clear what exactly the government wants with this law.


The draft law also does not go far enough in limiting government authority to regulate and manage NGO activities, the report added, and called for the inclusion of a right to appeal government decisions to the courts.

The bill also gives “total discretion” to the Ministry of Interior to reject applications for registration without specific criteria, the report said.

According to Article 48, the Ministry of Economy and Finance or the National Audit Authority “has the right to examine the financial status reports and properties of any [domestic NGO]”. CCHR called upon the government to amend the law so as to “expressly limit” such governmental powers.

The draft law, CCHR said, would most severely impact community-based organisations and small and/or provincial organisations, “suggesting that the [government’s] principal concern in passing the Law is not Phnom Penh-based international and domestic [NGOs], but popular movements and grassroots politics”.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in 2008 that the law was needed because “NGOs are out of control … they insult the government just to ensure their financial survival”.

“Our position is clear that we believe it’s not needed, this law, not now,” said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy. “We’re not clear what exactly the government wants with this law.”

Hang Chhaya said the law should wait until after the next election and a more “favourable” political environment when it would have a “proper quality” debate in parliament. The government only made the law a priority once it obtained “an absolute majority”, he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said civil society could weigh in during the January 10 forum, but the law would pass no matter the opposition.

“Even if the cock crows, the sun will still shine,” Khieu Sopheak said, citing a Khmer proverb. “The law has to be passed because we have already planned for it.”

Police Blotter: 27 Dec 2010

via CAAI

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly

Restaurant boss serves customer a beating
A 43-year-old Chinese restaurant owner was arrested in Daun Penh district on Wednesday, accused of seriously injuring a Singaporean customer. Police said a dispute broke out after a security guard at the restaurant accidentally damaged the victim’s motorbike. The guard allegedly agreed to pay US$20 for the damage but failed to return to the restaurant after telling the victim that he needed to go home and collect the money. When the victim complained to the owner of the restaurant, the owner allegedly refused to pay for the damage and instead attacked the victim, leaving him with serious head injuries. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Arrest is made over stabbing of jealous lover
A 25-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday after allegedly stabbing the jealous boyfriend of a girl he had been flirting with in Battambang province’s Banan district. Police said the 27-year-old victim, who was seriously injured, had confronted the suspect after a ceremony at a pagoda, and accused him of flirting with his girlfriend. The victim and his friends allegedly punched the suspect in the head twice before he retaliated by stabbing the victim in the stomach and fleeing the scene. Police said the suspect, who was arrested after the victim’s family filed a complaint, was sent to the provincial court after confessing to the attack. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Drunk man’s motorbike stolen from under him
A 23-year-old man was arrested in Kratie province on Thursday after allegedly stealing a motorbike out from under a drunken man who was sleeping with his leg flung over the vehicle after his wife locked him out of their house in Stung Treng province’s Stung Treng town. Police said the suspect had stolen the motorbike in the early hours of Wednesday morning before driving it to Kratie province, where he attempted to sell it before he was picked up by police. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Two children killed as truck smashes tractor
A 3-month-old girl and 5-year-old boy were killed and 14 people were injured after a truck crashed into a home-made tractor carrying 16 people in Battambang province’s Thma Koul district on Thursday. An eyewitness said the truck, which was transporting poultry, back ended the tractor at high speed before running off the road and into a wall. The truck driver was apparently unharmed and fled the scene. RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

via CAAI

KR history teaching forum organised

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 Cheang Sokha

MORE than 200 highschool teachers from across Cambodia met this past weekend in Preah Vihear province for a three-day workshop on teaching Khmer Rouge-era history. The workshop was organised by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia and the Ministry of Education and included teachers who received training last year on teaching the history of Democratic Kampuchea. This past year, the period was covered in detail on the Kingdom’s national exam for the first time.

Hunter injured by trapped wild pig

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 Thet Sambath

A HUNTER sustained serious arm and leg injuries after being bitten by a wild pig in Kratie province’s Snuol district on Thursday. Kim Lok, a police officer stationed in Ksim commune, said Van Seng Hak, 24, was injured after a pig he had trapped with his brother in law lashed out violently, biting him several times in the arm and leg. “One of the two victims were injured by a wild pig’s bite when they were hunting them,” Kim Lok said. “He was saved by a doctor.” Kim Lok said the two hunters climbed a tree and waited there until the pig freed itself from the trap and left the scene.

Shops raided for wood in Stung Treng province

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

OVER 60 cubic metres of rare hardwoods have been seized during raids on wood shops in Stung Treng province, officials said. Kim Huoth, the deputy provincial police chief, said a combined force of local police, military police and forestry officials from the Forestry Administration led the raids, which took place in Stung Treng district on Friday and Saturday. Wood cutting machines, saws and other equipment were also confiscated in the raids, he said. Chroeung Khmao, a prosecutor at Stung Treng provincial court, said the owners of the confiscated timber were fined, but that the court had opted not to charge them. “They also promised that they won’t commit this offence again in the future,” he said.

Tourism: Expert committee to be formed

via CAAI

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 Soeun Say


THE government will establish a National Tourism Expert Committee in order to boost the quality of the tourism industry, a government official told The Post yesterday.

Neb Samuoth, deputy director general of Ministry of Tourism, said the plenary Council of Ministers adopted a draft sub-decree on Friday, establishing the new committee in response to an agreement signed among members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations in January 2009.

“We established the Tourism Expert National Committee because we want to improve and strengthen the quality [of] Cambodia’s tourism sector,” he said.

Neb Samuoth said the committee would facilitate information-sharing between “tourism experts” of ASEAN members, pushing for the exchange of good policies in the tourism sector to build and develop the knowledge of Cambodian tourism experts and other ASEAN members.

“It’s very useful for those doing business in tourism or for someone who wants to do business in tourism that they can develop their knowledge and skills relating to the sector from other tourism experts,” Ho Vandy, Co-Chairman of the Tourism Working Group of Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said yesterday.

Thai businesses urged to invest

via CAAI

Monday, 27 December 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

COMMERCE Minister Cham Prasidh urged Thai businesses to invest in Cambodia’s processing industry at a meeting between Thai and Cambodian officials on Friday.

Cham Prasidh highlighted the Kingdom’s zero to low tariffs on exports to the European Union in his meeting with the Thai vice-chairman of the third Commission of the National Assembly of Thailand at Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce on Friday.

“If Thai’s investors come to invest in processing plants for our agricultural products exporting to EU’s market, you don’t need to pay tax,” he said.

“However, if you produce the same products in your country, you have to pay taxes between 7 [percent] and 30 percent.”

He said Thai businesses mostly buy paddy rice or other unprocessed agricultural products from Cambodia and process it in Thailand before exporting to the EU.

The Minister said these businesses stood to lose around €150 (US$196.7) per tonne on export tax.

“If you do business which loses €150 per tonne like this, why don’t you come to invest here to export with duty-free? You would gain more profit than if you did the same business in Thailand,” he said.

Ai Khan, vice-chairman of the 3rd Commission and MP, said he welcomed the idea and would pass it on to Thai investors.

“I will try my best to promote more investment and I will inform my people about that,” said the vice chairman.

“I hope that we will continue enhancing our relation for the benefit of people and economic, investment, tourism, political, and education ties.”

Cham Prasidh said the government was now seeking funds from foreign donors to help improve irrigation systems to boost agricultural production.

He said he was looking forward to the first ever Cambodia-Thai Business Forum which will be hosted in Phnom Penh in February “to strengthen and improve the economic and investment cooperation among the two countries”.

Sambo heads to new home

Photo by: Adam Miller
Sambo, a bull elephant that has terrorised villagers in Kampong Speu, is loaded onto a truck for transport to Phnom Tamao Zoo on Saturday.

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 December 2010 18:27 Adam Miller and Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Kampong Speu province

Sambo, the bull elephant that terrorised a small village in Kampong Speu province earlier this month, has finally found a new home at Phnom Tamao Zoo, following a Herculean effort by Forestry Administration officials and local NGOs to safely relocate him on Saturday.

Ahead of his arrival at the zoo, the raging hormonal beast, who was in the musth period of his adult life – a time of intense aggression that affects bull elephants periodically – was tranquilised and coaxed into a steel cage while hundreds of villagers watched on.

For hours, local vendors cashed in on the spectacle, selling coconut ice cream and loaves of bread to gawking locals who drank and cheered as the caged Sambo was hoisted onto the back of a truck.

“The situation was certainly not ideal. We were in a location close to many people and this did not make looking after him easy,” said Jack Highwood, director of the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment.

“We had to deal with people who wanted to get close [to] him, ride him, catch him and drive him – and especially deal with drunken people who wanted to take him home with them. However, we had great co-operation from the local authorities and the fact that the elephant is still alive and nobody else was killed was a huge achievement.”

After killing his owner earlier this month, Sambo ran wild in Mon village, in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district, trampling ricefields and terrorising locals. He was finally subdued on December 15 after being tranquillised and chained up by officials from the Forestry Administration.

Sambo has since lost 500-600 kilogrammes in weight after being put on a strict diet, and a road was built late last week to allow access to the rice paddy where he was left stranded.

The road proved troublesome for the truck used to transport him to the zoo. The large vehicle sat in the mud for hours as rescue workers used a bulldozer to push it closer to the elephant. An excavator was then used to bring the cage closer to Sambo. Ropes were then tied around him to help steer him toward the massive steel cage.

Sambo finally relented at about 4pm, giving up his three-week struggle and walking into the cage under his own power, where he was lifted by crane onto the flatbed truck and driven away.

“This was incredibly successful,” said Highwood. “I think this is a huge achievement for the Forestry Administration, Wildlife Alliance and ELIE.”

Nhem Thy, deputy director of Phnom Tamao Zoo, said that Sambo arrived at the zoo safely at 10pm on Saturday night.

“Sambo is now staying in his new enclosure, but he could only eat a little bit of food because his health is not very good after being tranquilised. We hope that his condition improves in the coming days,” he said.

When Sambo’s health improves, zoo officials hope to breed him with Srey Pao, a 45-year-old female elephant at the zoo, Nhem Thy said.

“However, we are now thinking that if Srey Pao is too old and she can’t have a baby with Sambo, we will put him with three young female elephants at the zoo,” he added

Yet despite the happy ending for Sambo, some Mon village residents say they will miss the danger and excitement that the aggressive elephant brought to their small community.

“What are we going to look at now that the elephant is gone?” one villager asked Highwood. “Rice? Cows?”

‘Illusion’ of democracy: report

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 December 2010 20:26 Brooke Lewis

Cambodian democracy has been eroded by a systematic campaign of government intimidation and prosecution of citizens and activists exercising their right to freedom of expression, according to a report released by the rights group Licadho on Saturday.

The report, titled Freedom of Expression in Cambodia: The Illusion of Democracy, outlines nearly 50 case studies from April 1 to September 30 that the authors claim involve “violations of expressive rights”.

“There is nothing particularly unusual about this six-month period – there were no elections, armed conflicts or national emergencies. Rather, we believed that focusing on a short period would illustrate the magnitude of Cambodia’s freedom of expression problem,” the report says.

The report details numerous high-profile cases, including government threats to expel from the country foreign diplomats and United Nations officials and the prosecution of several opposition party members.

It also includes a host of cases concerning the extortion of journalists, the prosecution of rights workers and the intimidation of residents involved in land disputes with government-backed private companies.

“These seemingly disparate stories, from all corners of the country, are not isolated incidents,” the report says.

“These cases follow patterns, and their similarities are not coincidental. They have the markings of a systematic crackdown.”

Among the cases cited in the Licadho report is the murder of 66-year-old Pich Sophon, who was shot dead on April 26 after campaigning on behalf of fellow residents who were involved in a land dispute with a South Korean company and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Battambang province’s Samlot district.

According to the report, no arrests have been made in connection to Pich Sophon’s killing.

Also cited is a letter from Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who in March accused the United Nations country team of “flagrantly interfering” in the government’s affairs by criticising the swift passage of anti-graft legislation.

At the time, Hor Namhong threatened to expel Douglas Broderick, the UN resident coordinator, warning that the office had “exceeded the limit of its mandate”. According to the authors of the report, such restrictions on freedom of expression are the consequence of a government that is “increasingly fearful of dissent”.

“The ruling elite have consolidated power and harnessed it for their benefit – and the benefits have been lavish,” the report says.

“They are loath to part with their privileges, no matter the cost. Rule of law has been supplanted by rule of the powerful. Voting is a charade, and democracy has become an illusion.”

Among other things, the report calls for the government to allow legitimate police and judicial investigations into the murders of journalists, human rights defenders, union activists and others whose deaths were related to expressive activities.

It also requests that it refrain from lifting the parliamentary immunity of politicians who are exercising their democratic duties.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that the Licadho report “reflects the reality of Cambodian society”.

“Most people are concerned about recent human rights abuses; corruption is still a major problem and land rights are still a major problem,” he said. “All the time it is getting worse.”

He said a lack of access to information in Cambodia was further evidence that the Kingdom was not functioning as a democracy.

“We cannot say Cambodia is a democratic country while we have limited access to information,” he said. “If we want a democratic society we need transparency in everything.”

On Thursday, the SRP sent a draft Freedom of Information law to the National Assembly for consideration. SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday that the law would require officials to make available documents that are routinely withheld from opposition party members and others trying to monitor the actions of the government.

But Yim Sovann said yesterday that he was pessimistic about the ruling party’s willingness to adopt such legislation.

“The ruling party has no political will to build a democratic society,” he said. “Corruption is the pillar of the ruling party.”

Ek Tha, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said yesterday that a healthy media presence in Cambodia was proof that democracy and freedom of expression were “blooming”.

“If you go to any village you will see people listening to the radio or reading the paper,” he said. “We do not block any radio, television or newspaper; that’s key to democracy.”

He also pointed to steps the government had taken within the last year – including the introduction of the new Penal Code – as examples of ways in which democracy was being strengthened.

“You cannot achieve full democracy overnight, things take time. We went through so much suffering; we had more than 30 years of civil war. The government is doing its best,” he said.

OITC executive flees country

Photo by: Wesley Monts
Keith Scott’s former apartment building in Chamkarmon district

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 December 2010 20:31 James O’Toole and Cheang Sokha

An Australian man claiming to be an executive of a bizarre international finance organisation has fled Cambodia, days after two of his associates were arrested and charged with forging documents alleging connections with HSBC Bank, the United States government and the United Nations.

Keith Scott, the “chief of cabinet” for the Office of International Treasury Control, left his serviced apartment in Chamkarmon district’s Tuol Svay Prey II commune last Wednesday, building staff said, after OITC chairman Ray C Dam was charged with forgery on Monday by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Dam was arrested along with Soush Saroeun, the executive managing director of local property firm and OITC subsidiary Asia Real Property, or ARP-OITC.

Scott said in an email yesterday that he was not involved with ARP-OITC, though he defended Dam, who is identified in OITC promotional materials as owner of the “Global Debt Facility” and economic adviser to United States presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush.

“I have travelled all over the world while working with Dr Dam as Special Envoy on his authority,” Scott said.

“If Dr Dam is imprisoned or if Dr Dam leaves Cambodia, the result is exactly the same, there is no point my being there.”

The OITC claims to have been granted special authority by the US and the United Nations, claims that have since been denied by American and UN officials. The group says it is “the largest single owner of gold and platinum bullion in the World”, claiming to control top secret assets and “treasure” all over the world.

Staff at Scott’s apartment said he had lived there since February, and had already paid rent for the next several months prior to leaving town.

Neighbours remembered him as a talkative and eccentric tenant who boasted of plans to buy the Himawari Hotel and finance a high-speed railway stretching from China to Malaysia.

“He told me a lot of bullshit and I’d pretty well nod my head in agreement,” one Western resident said, asking to remain anonymous. “I stopped talking to him when he started on the billions of dollars he was dealing in.”

Chhay Sinarith, director of the internal security department at the Ministry of Interior, said no further suspects were wanted in the OITC case as of yesterday.

“The court is investigating this case to search for additional people involved,” he said. “If the court finds more suspects, we will make arrests.”

Scott, who said he had used Phnom Penh as his “home base” for 15 years, declined to state his present whereabouts yesterday. Neighbours said he had told them he was bound for the Philippines.

In 2006, Scott traveled to Fiji on behalf of Dam and OITC, offering US$6 billion to be used toward the creation of a bank for local landowners.

Fijian police commissioner Andrew Hughes later said he was “profoundly suspicious” of Scott’s offer, suggesting it could be an “advance fee scam”. Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said “no one in their right mind” would inject so much money into such a small economy, the Fiji Times reported.

Villagers block sugar firm

Photo Supplied
Villagers watch as machinery owned by a sugar firm is loaded onto a truck during a protest in Kampong Speu on Friday.

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 December 2010 20:14 May Titthara

Hundreds of villagers in Kampong Speu province have staged a sit-in to prevent the clearance of land they say is being grabbed illegally by tycoon and ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat.

About 300 villagers from Omlaing commune, in Thpong district, began their protest on Friday, setting up a blockade in front of excavators from Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company that they claim will bulldoze community homes and farmland.

The villagers are part of a group of more than 2,000 families that rights groups say will be displaced by Ly Yong Phat’s 8,343-hectare land concession.

“The villagers decided to stand in front of the bulldozers without regard for danger because the authorities have yet to intervene and halt the company’s activities,” village representative Phal Vannak said.

Police were on hand at the site on Sunday along with company workers during the third day of the protest, which villagers said would continue until their land was no longer in danger.

“We will not let them clear the land because we haven’t sold it to anyone,” said Chhuon Chhun, another Omlaing resident. Company representatives have offered the villagers replacement plots of land, but these plots have been grabbed from other local residents, he added.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Kang Heang said 90 percent of the villagers affected by the concession had already received compensation. Those staging the protest, he said, have been encouraged by human rights groups to grab the land illegally.

“We will continue to clear the land because they are living illegally on state land, and we will not compensate them,” Kang Heang said. “We will do everything in accordance with the applicable law.”

Thpong District Governor Tuon Song declined to comment on Sunday, saying he was in a meeting related to the issue. Phnom Penh Sugar Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Ly Yong Phat’s wife, Kim Heang, has been granted a 9,053-hectare land concession for her Kampong Speu Sugar Company that adjoins his Phnom Penh Sugar concession. This, villagers say, is in clear violation of the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law, which limits the size of concessions to 10,000 hectares.

Omlaing villagers have been locked in the dispute with Phnom Penh Sugar since February, and more than a dozen have been summoned for questioning by the Kampong Speu provincial court in connection with the case.

In March, a group of villagers torched a makeshift building belonging to the company to protest against the alleged encroachment on their land.

PM accepts WFP’s apology

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:15 Cheang Sokha and Thomas Miller

Prime Minister Hun Sen has accepted an apology from the United Nations World Food Programme concerning a media characterisation of Cambodia’s food security that drew on data from the agency.

In a letter addressed to WFP country representative Jean-Pierre DeMargerie, dated December 23 and obtained by The Post on Sunday, Hun Sen welcomed WFP’s revised assessment. Hun Sen said Cambodia has made “remarkable progress in reducing poverty”.

“It is therefore a disservice to the nation of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Cambodian people and the donor community when the media downplays or misquotes our achievement on poverty reduction in Cambodia,” he said.

Hun Sen also promised roughly 2,000 tonnes of rice and US$467,000 annually from 2011-2015 to support WFP’s food assistance efforts.

On December 18, DeMargerie penned a letter of apology to Hun Sen for a statement on the WFP website describing Cambodia as a country vulnerable to food insecurity, which was recently reported in a local radio broadcast. WFP said that data was out of date.

“WFP does not consider the situation of food security in Cambodia to be at an alarming level ... WFP considers Cambodia as a country with a food surplus,” DeMargerie wrote.

WFP had previously stated that 30 percent of Cambodians lived beneath the national poverty level, while one in three lived in “food poverty”.

It has since revised those statistics. The latest data, it said, put the percentage of Cambodians living in poverty at 27 percent and the food poverty level at 18 percent.

Casey McCarthy, a communications officer in the UN resident coordinator’s office, said even though Cambodia had a food surplus, many remained without access to a sufficient and healthy diet.

“Nearly 29 percent of children under five are considered underweight. Chronic malnutrition of children and mothers remains of concern,” she said in an email on Friday.

DeMargerie’s apology came just a day after WFP warehouse staffer Seng Kunnaka was arrested and jailed for six months on charges of “incitement”.

The arrest came after he gave printed copies to two co-workers of an article that officials say alleged Hun Sen and other senior government officials were “puppets” of Vietnam.

WFP has thus far issued no substantive statements about Seng Kunnaka, except to say that the letter of apology and the case of Seng Kunnaka were “separate and unrelated”.

Property taxes start in January

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Phnom Penh's skyline. Cambodia's new property tax will start being collected from January next year, say government officials.

via CAAI

Sunday, 26 December 2010 19:07 Soeun Say

Cambodia’s new national property tax would be implemented from January next year, boosting the federal coffers up to an estimated US$4 million, officials said on Sunday.

The real estate division at the Ministry of Economy and Finance was granted approval on Friday to establish a committee for property evaluation, Norng Piseth, the Real Estate Division chief, told The Post.

“We have prepared the prakas to establish a committee for property evaluation and we will start implementing tax collection on property from early 2011 next year, as the National Assembly requires,” he said.

The National Assembly passed the law for a tax on all real estate, including land, houses, apartments and other infrastructure constructed on that land, in November 2009.

According to the Prakas – or edict Number 493 – the property tax will be an annual payment calculated as 0.1 percent of the value of the property as estimated by the evaluation committee, based on market prices. Only those properties worth 100 million riel (US$25, 000) or more will be taxed.

Norng Piseth said the tax would bring more income for the government to further development.

“This tax is very important in order to increase the national income to develop the country,” he said.

The new levy is expected to raise between $3 million to $4 million in additional revenue, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance estimates.

Touch Samnang, project manager and architecture of the Diamond Island development project behind developer Overseas Cambodia Investment Corp, said Sunday that he supported the tax on property, but also called for fairness.

“I think that we should have this tax in order to increase the economic growth in Cambodia. So, it is not a problem for us. We’re really [in] support [of] and follow what the government requires,” he said, adding that the government should ensure transparency, including that all eligible property owners and housing developers did pay up.

Cheap Sareth, a land owner in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, said Sunday he felt that it was too early for the government to begin collect property taxes.

“In my point of view, I think the government is moving too early to collect tax on property while the country is still recovering from the global economic crisis,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund said in its yearly assessment on Cambodia for 2010 that long-term fiscal stability for the Kingdom required further improving revenue administration.

“Gains in tax collection offer the best hope for Cambodia to meet the dual objective of securing fiscal sustainability and mobilising resources for its development needs,” the fund said in a release on its findings.

Keat Chhon, MEF deputy prime minister said during National Assembly discussions on the property tax last year that the new tax was not only contributing to the national budget, but was helping establish a “tax culture”.

“We do not expect much income from this new law, but we are making this law as we also want to establish a tax culture which will facilitate us to collect tax directly in the future,” he said.

At the time, he said about 180,000 households would fall under the requirements to pay the new tax.

MEF deputy prime minister could not be contacted for comment on Sunday.

Trade, agri investment to top agenda

via CAAI

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Diplomatic Correspondent

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will pay a three-day official visit to Cambodia as of December 26 with the aim to bolster diplomatic ties and boost bilateral cooperation.

She will be visiting Cambodian capital Phnom Penh at the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister HOR Namhong who holds the portfolio of foreign minister in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Official sources said she will pay an audience to King Norodom Sihamoni and hold meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, and Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun.

She will also hold talks with Namhong on the entire range of bilateral issues when they are set to prominently figure out trade and investment, cooperation in agriculture, and enhancement of bilateral trade, added the sources.

The Bangladeshi delegation will also tour the Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap province.

The Phnom Penh Post quotes Cambodian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Koy Kuong as saying cooperation on agricultural investment is “clearly a priority” for discussions during her visit.

Officials said bilateral trade between the two countries is very low. In 2009, Cambodia exported goods worth less than US$400,000 to Bangladesh and imported $1.3 million in return.

Cambodia and Bangladesh are competitors in the garment industry, both paying some of the lowest wages in the world. Cambodian workers are paid a minimum wage of $61 per month while Bangladeshi workers earn just $43.

Activists hold forum on disputed Preah Vihear temple with Cambodia

via CAAI

SI SA KET, Dec 26 -- Leaders of the activist Yellow Shirt group, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) Sunday conducted a public forum in the northeastern Thai province of Si Sa Ket on the historic ruins of the ancient Preah Vihear temple, disputed with neighbouring Cambodia.

More than 500 people attended the forum while top PAD leaders retired Maj- Gen Chamlong Srimuang and Pipop Thongchai demanded that the Thai government to revoke the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Thailand and Cambodia in 2000.

The two PAD core leaders also urged supporters to join a major rally to be held in the Thai capital in late January.

The International Court of Justice at The Hague in the Netherlands in 1962 ruled that the 11th century temple belongs to Cambodia.

UNESCO named it a World Heritage site in 2008 after Cambodia applied such status. Cambodia submitted a management plan for the temple recently to the UNESCO World Heritage Commission, which deferred its decision until next year.

Both countries claimed a 1.8 square mile (4.6 sq km) tract of land near the cliff-top Preah Vihear temple. (MCOT online news)

In Cambodia, once-untouchable treasures await

A surge of tourism increases access not just to well-known sites such as Angkor but also temples in regions once off-limits due to skirmishes.
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. (Heng Sinith / Associated Press)

via CAAI

By Susan Spano
Special to the Los Angeles Times
December 26, 2010

Two decades ago, the great ruined temple complex at Angkor in central Cambodia was an uncrowded dream destination. But as the country emerged from decades of poverty and suffering, mass tourism arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. With it came sightseers by the busload and the transformation of the hamlet of Siem Reap at Angkor's threshold — an amiable but ballooning tourist trap with a new international airport, a branch of the Cambodian national museum, a trendy restaurant row and an abundance of hotels, including high-enders Raffles and Sofitel.

If the speed of transformation is any indication, 2011 is the time to visit the diminutive Southeast Asian country lodged between Thailand and Vietnam, not just to take advantage of Siem Reap's amenities but to go beyond Angkor to wonders still lost in the Cambodian jungle.

There are, for example, vestiges of the Khmer Empire as remarkable as Angkor all around Cambodia, including an older group of temples in the Sambor Prei Kuk area; Koh Ker, northeast of Siem Reap, opened to visitors since land mines, laid during the civil wars, were removed; and majestic Preah Vihear, on a mountaintop in the north where, until recently, Thai and Cambodian troops were engaged in a border skirmish.

The once-inaccessible Cambodian countryside, with its lime-green rice paddies, jungly mountains, swollen lakes and rushing rivers, increasingly is opening, thanks to adventure travel agencies that take visitors there by horse, motorcycle and helicopter. Guests at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, a new eco-resort on the Tatai River in western Cambodia, get the chance to spot secretive rhinos and elephants in the wild, while boat trips up the great Mekong River cruise through the habitat of the rare, freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin on their way to the friendly Laotian border town of Chhlong.

Nonprofit organizations abound, seeking volunteers to work in Cambodia ( ,  and ) — a great way to take part in the country's cultural and economic resurgence.