Monday, 28 February 2011

Robbers at large after violent gold theft

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:02 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Police are searching for eight suspects following the armed robbery of a gold seller on Friday in Kampong Chhnang’s Pongro village.

Deputy Provincial Police Chief Prak Vuthy said seven men armed with AK-47s and another man with a pistol entered the home of Chhour Leang, 35, and his wife Kea Muoy Kea, 32, on Friday and made off with 10 damlung of gold (worth about US$17,000), 10 million riel ($2,500), mobile phone cards worth $1,000 and two mobile phones.

“We have identified these people as professional armed robbers and we hope that we will arrest them and bring them to justice soon,” Prak Vuthy said yesterday.

He added that during the robbery, two men had come to the victim’s house in order to change their money and both men were shot and severely injured. The suspects then escaped before police could arrive.

“We are very regretful that we were not able to arrest them because we were a little bit late, because we received information late,” Prak Vuthy said.

Praise as JICA water project winds up

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Japan International Cooperation Agency recently concluded a clean water project across Kampong Cham province that has seen the digging of 510 wells since 2006.

Takayuki Ohno, an engineer for the JICA project, said each well cost US$10,000 and provides clean water pumped from as deep as 70 metres below ground.

He said the project focused on Kampong Cham province because its proximity to the Mekong River made it relatively free of arsenic in the water table.

“The water from the well pumps is clean, but villagers are encouraged to boil it before drinking it,” he said.

About 1,000 villagers in Memot district suffer from diarrhoea and other infectious diseases because of a lack of clean water, said Kan Tuot Village Chief Chhay Saron. “We used to drink dirty water from canals behind our village,” he said.

Chhay Saron said that after JICA built four wells in the area, villagers are in better health and have a better standard of living.

“We are so grateful to the Japanese people and government.”

Woman files complaint after attack

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:02 Chhay Channyda

A villager in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumchor commune filed a complaint to the Ministry of Interior’s Centre for Justice Services in O’Yadav district on Friday, charging that she was injured in an attack by two women from whom she had entered into a personal business arrangement.

Choek Neng, 47, said on Friday that she sustained severe injuries during the attack on February 9 and was treated in hospital until her release on February 21.

She said her two alleged attackers, who she identified as a mother and daughter in the employ of Keat Kolney, sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon, struck her on the head and stuffed papers into her mouth when she asked to see documents related to a personal debt.

Choek Neng said she owed her alleged assailants more than 2 tonnes of cassava but that she had already repaid more than 1 tonne and had asked to see the records of the balance still owed when she was attacked.

Her complaint to the Centre for Justice Services seeks compensation for medical treatment, which she said totalled more than 1 million riel (about US$250).

“When they hit me, I did not hit them back. So I filed a complaint to commune police, but no action has been taken,” she said.

Ha Sann, deputy chief of Lumchor commune police, denied on Friday that no action had been taken and suggested that Choek Neng’s injuries could have been the result of a prior medical condition.

“I’m not ignoring [the case], but I will wait to see the results from the hospital, which revealed her injury was because of a past disease,” he said.

He added that Choek Neng suffered from convulsions, which may have caused her to be nervous when she had a quarrel with her alleged attackers and made her fall to the ground.

Vay Vannla, head of the Centre for Justice Services in O’Yadav, said that he had received the complaint and would ask both parties to reach a compromise before sending the case to court.

Thai nationalists seek PM’s pardon

Photo by: Pha Lina
Thai Yellow Shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid is led to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for sentencing last month. Veera is preparing to appeal to the Prime Minister for a pardon.

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:02 Vong Sokheng

A pair of Thai nationalists convicted of espionage earlier this month in a highly charged case are preparing to appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen for their release, a defence lawyer said yesterday.

Veera Somkwamkid, a high-profile member of Thailand’s nationalist Yellow Shirt movement, was convicted of espionage, illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base along with an associate, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.

Veera, 53, was sentenced to eight years in jail and ordered to pay 1.8 million riel (about US$444) in fines, while Ratree received a six-year prison term.

“I am preparing all the documents to request a pardon and we will submit the letter to the Premier soon,” said Pich Vicheka, Veera’s Cambodian lawyer.

“I am not sure what the result will be, but I have to fulfil my professional obligation to help my client.”

Veera and Ratree were arrested in December in Banteay Meanchey province along with five other Thais, including parliamentarian Panich Vikitsreth, who were on an expedition to “investigate” the border demarcation process with Cambodia.

Panich and the other four Thais were found guilty of illegal entry last month but were released on suspended sentences.

In a speech earlier this month, Hun Sen rejected the possibility of pardons for Veera and Ratree.

“Don’t come to persuade me to ask for a royal pardon, I will not do that and [the case] will be enforced under the law this time,” he said.

Under Cambodian law, prisoners are eligible for pardon after serving two-thirds of their jail sentences.

In 2009, however, the government released a Thai national sentenced to seven years in prison on espionage charges just days after his conviction.

The suspect, an airport engineer named Sivarak Chutipong, was arrested for allegedly passing the flight details of Thaksin Shinawatra to the Thai Embassy during one of the fugitive former Thai prime minister’s controversial visits to the Kingdom.

Thai officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, though Thai state media reported that the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was working on the pardon request and that the Thai embassy in Cambodia had “negotiated a compromise with concerned authorities” in relation to the case.

Ros Aun, a defence lawyer for Ratree, said he was unaware of the pardon request but confirmed that his client had elected not to appeal her conviction.

Opposition claims merger progress

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:01 Meas Sokchea

Leader from the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties said they have achieved progress towards a negotiated merger in the latest round of talks between party leaders, according to a joint statement issued on Friday.

The statement follows three meetings this month between working groups from both parties to negotiate a union that aims to bolster opposition candidates’ chances against ruling Cambodian People’s Party members in commune elections next year and national polls in 2013.

Leaders from both parties said the two sides have agreed to a framework for the merger that is moving in the right direction.

“In merging the parties, the first step requires us to have confidence in each other,” SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday.

“We have the will to merge. Importantly, if we have the will, I believe that step-by-step we will move forward towards [a merger].”

Human Rights Party parliamentarian Kiet Sokun expressed similar optimism that both sides had found common ground for a lasting unification of the parties.

“We do not [seek a merger] for only one election but for the future and to rule our country,” he said. “The general framework of the merger has been agreed.”

However, negotiations have been contentious despite recent claims of progress. HRP President Khem Sokha said earlier this month that a proposed union of the parties would dissolve his party by bringing it under the control of the SRP.

Both sides have also previously sparred over the unified opposition party’s name.

Kiet Sokun refused to give specific details about the status of a name for the unified party but said that according to the framework for the merger, the party would not be called the Sam Rainsy Party.

Cheam Yeap, a senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker, said the ruling party did not fear the union of opposition parties, and chided Sam Rainsy and Khem Sokha for not being able to live in the same house.

“We are not scared of the SRP and HRP merger. I know the vision of both parties’ leaders is not the same.”

Police Blotter: 28 Feb 2011

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:01 Phak Seangly

Three hacked in dance party axe attack
KRAKOR district police are searching for a suspect who was accused of hacking three men, aged between 20 and 24, with an axe at a dance party on Thursday night in Pursat province. Police said that the three men were dancing when a group of men arrived and attacked them, leaving one of them severely injured. The suspects escaped from the scene and police said the motive for the attack was due to a rival gang conflict.

Trigger-happy pair arrested in Takeo
POLICE in Takeo province sent two men, aged 24 and 27, to provincial court on Thursday after they were accused of using an illegal weapon in Samrong district. Police said that on Tuesday the two suspects took an old K-59 pistol out of storage where it had been for about five years and shot it once into the air to make sure that it still worked. Villagers reported the incident to local police who arrested them.

Drug pusher busted in police crack down
STUNG TRENG district police raided a home and arrested a 48-year-old woman in connection with distributing illegal drugs in Stung Treng province. Police said they observed the home for many days after an arrested drug user confessed that he bought drugs from the woman’s home. Thirty-four tablet and 9 packages of methamphetamine were seized from the woman, who is a food vendor. The suspect admitted that she had been selling drugs for one year and purchased them from an unidentified man in town.

Security guard attacks mentally ill beggar
A 52-YEAR-OLD security guard in the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port attacked a mentally ill beggar until she fell unconscious in Preah Sihanouk province on Thursday. A witness said that the guard used a wooden stick to beat the victim and then dragged her by the hair to a nearby alley and hit her in the head with a stone. The security guard was not arrested. Police sent the woman to the provincial hospital for medical treatment.

Bracelet thief nabbed by Sihanoukville cops
SIHANOUKVILLE police in on Wednesday detained a 30-year-old motorbike taxi driver on suspicion of robbing a bracelet from a 23-year-old female vendor on Tuesday. According to police the suspect, who is from Takeo province, entered a beverage shop and bought a can of beer and then snatched a platinum bracelet from the vendor who shouted for help. The man attempted to escape from the scene, but the shop owner and villagers arrested him and turned him over to police.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

via CAAI

Fisherman detained on illegal fishing charges

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:01 Tep Nimol

KAMPONG CHAM provincial police arrested a man on Saturday suspected of using illegal devices to fish in Krouch Chmar district’s Peus II commune. Mao Buntoeun, an official with the provincial Fisheries Administration, said a 34-year-old man would be investigated for using illegal devices, including a battery and inverter recovered after his arrest, for fishing in Tuol Sambath village. If found guilty under Article 68 of the Fisheries Law, the man could face three to five years in prison.

Forestry official caught with illegal timber

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:01 Tep Nimol

Kampong Thom provincial Forestry Administration authorities detained a fellow official from Siem Reap’s Sre Noy district on Friday, after he transported 50 pieces of illegal timber between the two provinces without permission. Authorities confiscated the timber but later released him after he paid a fine.

Cambodia returns to industrial evolution

Yamaha has committed to a Cambodian manufacturing plant, along with fellow Japanese firms Minebea and Sumitomo Electric. Bloomberg

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 14:29 Seng Sovan

ONE effect of the global economic crisis seldom discussed amid reports of a liquidity crisis and garment sector meltdown was the impact on Cambodia’s manufacturing progress.

In 2008, Cambodia was on the brink of attracting large multinational companies looking for new sources of cheap labour and the latest frontiers of market growth. But these firms subsequently “stayed at home”, in the words of Sok Chenda, secretary general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, as CEOs looked to damage limitation rather than expansion overseas.

In Cambodia’s case, the economic crisis looks to have only stalled – rather than aborted – the start of a long-awaited transition from labour-intensive industry towards more complex manufacturing. And increasingly, it is Japan that is driving this industrial evolution.

Confirmation at the weekend that Sumitomo Electric Industries, a Fortune-500 company, plans to become the latest Japanese firm to build a plant here provides the most recent evidence Cambodia is finally expanding manufacturing beyond the confines of the garment industry.

Sumitomo follows Minebea, Ajinomoto and Yamaha – all Japanese firms that have in recent months either opened or committed to manufacturing plants in the Kingdom.

Chinese firms have long had a manufacturing presence here, but most have limited themselves to the garment industry. Instead, China’s industrial base has had a more indirect impact on the stuttering manufacturing progress starting to take shape in Cambodia.

If China’s entry into Cambodian garments was partly due to the United States initiating quotas on Chinese clothing and apparel in 2005, according to some analysts, then the recent entry of more international complex industry into Cambodia can also be traced back to the mainland to an extent.

Masayoshi Matsumoto, president of Sumitomo Electric, told Kyodo News the firm’s decision to expand manufacturing to Cambodia and the Philippines later this year was due to a labour shortage and wage rises in China.

Minebea’s announcement at the end of last year that it would set up a production facility in Cambodia represents the first time the company would have opened a large-scale manufacturing plant in a new country since it did so in Shanghai 17 years ago.

The firm begins its first production in Cambodia in April at a leased factory before relocating to a US$61 million facility in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone next year, a plant that will rank second only in volume to Minebea’s China operation. This represents a significant moment for Cambodia.

While cynics will note these companies are coming here for the cheap labour, tax breaks and access to a new, untapped market, the benefits for the country will likely be substantial.

Minebea alone plans to hire 5,000 people in the longer term, workers that would otherwise have been hired at minimum-wage garment factories, or worse. These are employees that will be trained to assemble small electric motors for office and household electronic equipment, goods that have never been manufactured in the Kingdom previously.

Similarly, Sumitomo plans to make automotive wire harnesses, the latest sign the vehicle industry is starting to look at Cambodia as a production base following recent interest by Hyundai and Yamaha.

Within the long, arduous cycle of industrial evolution this marks solid progress for the country, not least because Japanese firms have over the past half a century represented the pinnacle of manufacturing.

For Cambodia, learning from companies like Sumitomo and Minebea is perhaps the most significant benefit that can be drawn from these new relationships. Cambodia’s manufacturing progress is as much about keeping multinationals here to gain increased expertise as it is about the revenues that can be generated from them. Just ask China.

If Japan is the master of developing technology then China is surely the more recent master of co-opting innovation for maximum gain. Now the economic crisis is over, Cambodia can get back to following their example.

KR soldiers voice views on film


We would rather lose our lives than our Khmer name. We died, but our heroism remained...

One of 30 former soldiers in the Khmer Rouge tells her story in Voices of the Khmer Rouge at Bophana Audiovisual Centre.

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:01 Roth Meas

FORGOTTEN voices and stories from the Khmer Rouge period are preserved in a mammoth exhibition available for viewing at Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre from March 4 to 17.

But these aren’t tales told by survivors of the brutal regime – these are the voices of low-ranking soldiers who joined the Khmer Rouge. Even now, their stories are anonymous.

The people featured in 43 hours of film, captured by Danish film directors Thomas Weber Carlsen and Jan Krogsgaard, asked that their names not be used, although the camera captures all their emotions in full screen.

Voices of the Khmer Rouge has been divided into 30 episodes, said Sar Kosal, Bophana’s cultural event manager.

Each episode features an interview with a former Khmer Rouge soldier, filmed between 2002 and 2010.

Visitors can dip into episodes stored on the centre’s 30 computer terminals during opening hours on weekdays.

In episode 21, a woman explains what drove her to join the Khmer Rouge in Kampong Speu province.

“Soldiers from General Lon Nol’s government put a price on my father’s head, offering 2,500 riel to anyone who could arrest him because he offered food to the Khmer Rouge guerrillas who were plotting to overthrow the government.”

She said that prompted her to join the resistance movement, first joining the Children’s Association by growing crops to feed the troops.

After the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, the woman tells of being assigned to a textile factory in Battambang, where she was made head of workers.

When Vietnamese troops intervened in 1978 and drove many Khmer Rouge supporters to Cambodia’s western borders, she followed them and was assigned to help transport food from Thailand to the remaining resistance troops.

Food transportation was not an easy job because they had to cross battlefields, she recalls in the film.

“We saw that our country was under invasion. We were not afraid to sacrifice our fresh flesh, fresh blood,” she said.

“We would rather lose our lives than our nation. We would rather lose our lives than our Khmer name. We died, but our heroism remained to encourage our children of the future,” said the woman who is now a farmer.

She said the regime’s principles remained heroic, even though she was aware of robbers, rapists and killers.

But she blamed individuals, not the entire regime. “You can go around and check it out by asking people here. They did not blame the Khmer Rouge. Only a small number of individuals blamed Pol Pot.”

Filmmakers Carlsen and Krogsgaard said they aimed to raise questions of how people looked at themselves as part of the Khmer Rouge organisation, and how they coped with executions, forced labour and starvation as a result of its policies.

Each episode lasts between 25 minutes and two hours. Viewers can choose which they want to watch, all of the episodes have English subtitles.

Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre is at 64, Street 200, Phnom Penh, open from 8am-12pm, 2pm-6pm Monday to Friday.

Concert impresses audiences at Bayon Temple

Young soprano Bosbapanh in rehearsal for the weekend’s concert at Bayon Temple, billed as Tribute to the Masters.

via CAAI

Monday, 28 February 2011 15:00 Ou Mom

THE grounds around the ancient fa├žade of the Bayon Temple came to life on Friday and Saturday night with a two-day concert billed as Tribute to the Masters.

International recognition for the featured talents of Cambodian 13-year-old soprano Bosbapanh attracted many artists and musicians to perform at the Angkor Wat stage in Siem Reap.

“We have many unique performers on the same stage in order to rebuild our Khmer culture, ranging from old to young artists,” said Bosbapanh.

Khmer artists from all corners of the world were excited about sharing the same stage, said Sarah O’Brien, the leading musician for Studio Hollywood, who composed a song for the gifted young soprano.

“Bosbapanh has brought the uniqueness of music to life, and it is my honour to compose music for her. She is an artist of incredible potential, and I believe that the future is changing rapidly around her,” said O’Brien.

Khmer-American singer Mom Laura, accompanied by Bosbapanh, sang a song about a refugee, expressing her passion and love for her home country and culture. The 24-year-old singer was born in the United States but her parents were refugees.

“In this song, I say that my heart is Khmer, but my body does not reflect that. It’s because I am a Khmer who loves Cambodia and am proud to be born Khmer, but when I come to Cambodia, other Khmer children always say that I’m a foreigner, and when I am in the USA, I am seen as a Khmer in the USA. So this song is a bit sad because I miss my homeland, Cambodia.

“My goal is to make Khmer children in the USA proud and aware of the history and culture of Cambodia,” said Mom Laura. “I am very excited to have participated in the performance with all artists in front of the Bayon Temple. I am extremely happy to have performed at this temple, because I used to study Khmer history when I was in college.”

Although some of the audience seemed not so much interested in the opening song, they were smiling and cheering by the end of the concert. After the music ended, spectators surged towards the stage waving their cameras and mobile phones, eager to take pictures.

Bosbapanh explained that the rehearsal schedule was tight for the concert. “We only had six months to prepare. I’ve also got to manage my school work and art work, so I hope to work harder on both.”

ASEAN still struggling to close development gap

via CAAI

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Vientiane
Sun, 02/27/2011

Standing along the Mekong riverbank in Vientiane, Laotians can clearly see Thailand’s blistering prosperity compared to their own, with high-rise apartment buildings coupled with concrete housing standing along the river on the other side.

For many Laotians, it’s like watching others enjoy rising prosperity just a hundred meters across the river, but not being able to partake of it themselves, often leading to feelings of frustration.

“It’s just an everyday fact of life to look across the river to see what the Thai people have achieved,” Thongkham, who owns a shop along the river bank, said.

While both countries are members of ASEAN, the regional grouping of 10 Southeast Asian countries, nowhere across the region is the prosperity gap so wide.

While Thailand’s per capita income shot above US$4,700 in 2010, Laos registered only $980. Neighboring both states is Cambodia, with a per capita income of only $700, while the most developed ASEAN state, Singapore, has a per capita income of more than $37,000.

All ASEAN leaders have come to realize the significance of the issue and the lack of efforts to close the gap as the grouping’s economic ministers start their two-day meeting in Laotian capital Saturday.

During the meeting, Indonesia, which this year chairs ASEAN, openly underlined the need for the grouping to do something to lift the region’s poorest nations higher. The plan has the support of other members, especially Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

“Indonesia views that we need to do more to create an equitable ASEAN and closing the development gap between developed members and less developed ones. This is one of Indonesia’s focuses during the meeting and its chairmanship,” Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, who chairs the ministerial meeting, said.

She expressed optimism that the meeting would result in concrete projects to close the gap.

Indonesian deputy trade minister Mahendra Siregar, who heads the Indonesian delegation, warned that if ASEAN failed to close the gap, those who could not benefit from the grouping’s integration would look for other alternatives to ASEAN.

“Indonesia has the duty of ensuring that everybody benefits from ASEAN. We have proven in the past that not only do we deal with our interests but also help others. How can we become a community if the gap is too large, and if not Indonesia, who else would pursue the issue?” he said.

Many observers have warned that if ASEAN neglected its poorest members then other countries would take advantage, pointing to the dependence of Myanmar and Laos on China, which has invested aggressively in both countries.

One effort that has been launched in improving the economic level of ASEAN’s poorest is the building of roads and railways as part of enhancing the grouping’s connectivity.

“We hope that opening access to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam can raise the standard of living in those countries,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry director for ASEAN economy Rahmat Pramono.

China has been quick to help finance the building of railways from Kumming to Singapore, which will pass through Laos and Cambodia, but many have warned that China’s help was not free, raising concerns that China would obtain economic benefits and political influence in those two countries.

Connectivity is also expected to boost trade among ASEAN members. The ASEAN Secretariat estimates that trade among member states is valued at $400 billion, while ASEAN trade with the world market is worth $1.7 trillion.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said that after regional integration and connectivity to non-ASEAN states, the grouping’s trade with the world market should reach $3 trillion by 2015.

Lonpac to focus on S'pore, Cambodia ops

via CAAI

By Rupinder Singh
Published: 2011/02/28

GENERAL insurer Lonpac Insurance Bhd is putting on hold its plans to venture into other overseas countries to focus on growing its operations in Cambodia as well as Singapore.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of LPI Capital Bhd (8621), Lonpac currently has operations in Singapore and Cambodia.

"Cambodia has been a success story and represented a learning curve for us. The challenge now for us to build our market share in Cambodia further," Lonpac's adviser Tee Choon Yeow told Business Times.

In three years since it started business in Cambodia, the insurer has gained 20 per cent market share where the total industry gross premium is only US$20 million (RM61 million) shared among six insurers.
Lonpac aims to capture a 35 per cent market share in Cambodia in the next five years while generating a return on equity of 25 per cent.

Lonpac has consecutively made underwriting profits from the first year in Cambodia and therefore sees a lot of potential in the kingdom.

In 2010, Lonpac's regional business in Cambodia contributed a net profit share of RM743,000.

Domestic operations contributed 98.9 per cent of the group's profit before tax last year.

LPI Capital and Public Bank Bhd (PBB) have a common shareholder in Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow, who is also chairman of PBB and non-executive chairman of LPI Capital.

Lonpac operations in Cambodia is via Campubank Lonpac Insurance Plc, a joint venture company with PBB.

Lonpac is planning to open another branch in Siem Reap this year when business volume is big enough and aims to tap into PBB's customer base.

PBB unit Cambodian Public Bank plc has carried out commercial banking business in Cambodia since May 1992 and currently has 20 branches strategically located in the country.

For its Singapore branch, he said its business portfolio had been restructured to underwrite more personal lines businesses from the volatile motor insurance previously.

The move is expected to help the Singapore unit to break even and show a small underwriting profit.

Although the Cambodia and Singapore units are still not a significant contributors, Tee expects both ventures to contribute 20 per cent to the group in five years. - By Rupinder Singh

Cambodia: Who Ordered the Blocking of Opposition Websites?

Written by
Mong Palatino

via CAAI

Posted 27 February 2011

Last month, an anti-government website was blocked by some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Cambodia. The ISPs later denied that it received an order from the government to ban the critical website. The government also insisted that it is not a policy to block the website of opposition groups. Fortunately, access to the website was restored immediately.

But the issue of web censorship in Cambodia continued to sizzle this month as media groups leaked a letter by government information authorities asking ISPs to censor websites that allegedly harm Cambodian morality and tradition.

Sieng Sithy, deputy director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policy Regulation at the MPTC, wrote an email to Ezecom, Metfone, Citylink, Digi, AngkorNet, WiCam, TC, Camnet, Online and Camintel thanking them for “cooperation” in blocking access to several websites, including KI-Media, Khmerization and a site featuring the art of political cartoonist Sacrava.

The government gave conflicting statements on the veracity of the letter. The Ministry continues to assert that web censorship is not being pursued by the government. Here are some parts of the controversial letter:

The e-mail, which was electronically signed by Sieng Sithy, deputy director of the ministry’s policy regulation, addresses service providers WiCam, Telesurf and Hello.

“We found that you are not yet taken an action, so please kindly take immediate action”

“Here below [are the] websites.”

“Again and again, In case of not well cooperation is your own responsibility”

Internet users in Cambodia complained that the mentioned websites have been inaccessible for many times this month. The ISPs blamed it on technical problems.

The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) condemns the reported blocking of critical websites

…the Internet was the only audio or visual media not fully controlled by the government. The censoring of controversial Web sites marks a significant milestone in the march toward a more oppressive media environment

The group also wants ISPs to explain to their customers why they agreed to comply with the government request to censor the websites

Did the government simply make a “request” that ISP providers block certain sites? If so, ISPs owe their customers an honest explanation as to why they have chosen to comply. Hiding behind excuses simply makes them complicit in the censorship campaign. Concerned customers should call their ISPs and demand a legitimate explanation for the ongoing outage of political opposition Web sites. Better yet, all ISPs should decline the government's request and restore full Internet access immediately.

Customers deserve to know whether they are giving their money to a company that is helping to enable a government censorship campaign.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is also worried about the intensifying media censorship in Cambodia.

According to media reports, internet use in Cambodia increased by 500 percent in the past year.

Raid closes specialty brothel

via CAAI

Sunday, 27 February 2011 20:46 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Anti-human trafficking officials last week cracked down on a guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district that offered sexual services for a select clientele.

Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office at the Ministry of Interior, said a raid of the guesthouse-turned-brothel in Veal Vong commune netted a total of 14 arrests, including the guesthouse owner, two accomplices and 11 sex workers, on Saturday.

“We have been investigating this house for about a month before we took superb action in cracking down on it,” he said.

Keo Thea added that the guesthouse offered specific sexual services.

“This place is hidden and illegal and provides sexual services for [gay] men, lesbians, old ladies and foreign people in Phnom Penh.”

He said police research had uncovered that the guesthouse had been a popular destination for people seeking its specific services for many years.

The detained were being held at the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Department for questioning prior to being sent to provincial court today to face charges, Keo Thea said, though he expressed doubts about the fate of some of the people arrested during Saturday’s raid.

“We are now waiting for the order from our superiors about what we should do with these 11 people, who are sexual service providers and those who had come for sex,” he said.

“But for the house owner and the two accomplices, we will send them to court for charges.”

Cambodia outlaws nukes

via CAAI

Sunday, 27 February 2011 20:44 Thet Sambath

The Council of Ministers on Friday approved a draft sub-decree barring the production of materials used in the making of chemical, nuclear or biological weapons.

Cambodia’s constitution already prohibits the manufacture, use or storage of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons under articles 9 and 54.

The sub-decree was prepared by the Defence Ministry’s Chemical Weapon National Authority as a mechanism to control the production and use of chemicals in line with international treaty obligations.

It follows a draft law introduced in 2009 that similarly barred the use, manufacture or storage of such weapons.

“Our constitution has prohibited the use of chemical, nuclear, biological and radioactive [weapons], but we have prepared this sub-decree as an addition,” said government spokesman Phay Siphan today.

Chum Sambath, an undersecretary of state at the Defence Ministry, said Cambodia has no chemical or nuclear weapons and would never produce them.

“We don’t need to produce chemical weapons because we have no intention to invade any country,” he said.

Minister of Defence Tea Banh could not be reached for comment today.

In 2005 Cambodia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a global initiative by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

UNESCO envoy arrives

via CAAI

Sunday, 27 February 2011 19:59 Cheang Sokha

A special envoy from UNESCO arrived in the Kingdom today to discuss the preservation of Preah Vihear temple following deadly clashes along the Thai-Cambodian border near the 11th-century site earlier this month.

Koichiro Matsuura, formerly the head of UNESCO, will be in Cambodia until Tuesday to hold talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and other senior officials.

Matsuura was originally scheduled to travel to Preah Vihear on Tuesday to assess the damage sustained by the temple over four days of fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops that left at least 10 people dead and displaced thousands of civilians.

The envoy said today, however, that this visit had been delayed.

Chuch Phoeurn, chairman of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said the trip had been postponed for two weeks to allow Cambodia to prepare for the arrival of military observers from Indonesia who will be monitoring the situation along the border as a result of an agreement reached between Thailand and Cambodia last week.

On Saturday, an advance team of five Indonesians visited the border area to plan for the observers’ arrival, Chuch Phoeurn said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said UNESCO’s role in the dispute was not to determine “who is right and who is wrong”, but to “ease tension” and “seek cooperation to effectively protect the temple of Preah Vihear”.

The temple sustained damage to its staircases and exterior during this month’s clashes, though early claims from the Cambodian government that a whole wing had collapsed later proved exaggerated.

Matsuura came to the Kingdom from Thailand, where he met officials including Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva in relation to the dispute.

Thai state media reported that Bangkok had stressed the importance of resolving the countries’ border dispute before UNESCO approves Cambodia’s management plan for the temple.

Tensions along the border have been heightened since 2008, when UNESCO inscribed Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site for Cambodia.

Chum Puy, governor of Kulen district in Preah Vihear province, said today that of the 2,678 families living near the border who had been evacuated to temporary shelters in the midst of the fighting, all but 30 had returned to their homes.

“We see that the situation is now safe for them to return,” he said.

Marines to the rescue

via CAAI

Sunday, 27 February 2011 20:32 Thomas Miller

United States Marines began a four-day bilateral maritime exercise with the Cambodian military off the Kingdom’s south coast today, according to a US Marines press release.

The Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit includes 2,200 marines and sailors who will participate in military cooperation with Cambodian forces designed to prepare the region for regional humanitarian disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the statement said.

“Our military forces engage in cooperative programmes throughout the year aimed at developing relationships to allow for combined efforts,” said Colonel Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.

Chhun Socheat, Ministry of Defense spokesman, could not be reached today.

The 31st MEU participated in the Cobra Gold military exercises with Thailand from February 7 to 18, one of the largest land-based, joint military training exercises in the world, which has grown to include forces from Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea.

The predecessor to the 31st MEU, the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, was involved in operation Eagle Pull, the US evacuation of Phnom Penh on April 12, 1975.

Last July, military forces from 23 countries came to Kampong Speu province to participate in Angkor Sentinel, the Kingdom’s first large-scale international peacekeeping exercise, which was co-hosted by the US Pacific Command.

Human rights organisations criticised the US at the time for funding the construction of a military base for the exercises that had been recently occupied by the Cambodian military’s ACO tank unit, because the unit had been involved in illegal land-grabbing documented by the US State Department and rights organisations.

The US has said it screens all individuals who receive US military training or assistance.

The Angkor Sentinel 2011 peacekeeping exercise is set for May 16-28 this year.

Kratie veteran dies in custody

Photo by: Pha Lina
Members of a disabled community in Kratie province protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh residence last year.

via CAAI

Sunday, 27 February 2011 19:50 May Titthara

A disabled veteran who was arrested last year in connection with a land dispute in Kratie province has died in custody, an incident family members and rights workers allege stems from mistreatment by prison officials.

Vong Vireak, 42, died last Wednesday after complaining of health problems earlier in the week, his wife, 45-year-old So Sokmean, said today.

Toch Sakhoeun, president of Kratie provincial court, said the man died at the provincial hospital, though So Sokmean said he had passed away while in prison.

“When my husband got sick, I asked that he receive treatment but they did not allow it,” she said, adding that she had discovered a number of bruises and injuries on her husband’s dead body that she believed were evidence of torture.

Doctors did examine her husband in prison, So Sokmean said, but concluded that he needed to be moved to Phnom Penh for treatment, a request that was denied by the provincial prosecutor.

“It is the fault of the prison director and the prosecutor,” she said.

“My husband would not have died if they allowed him to be treated in Phnom Penh.”

Toch Sakhoeun said, however, that Vong Vireak had received proper medical attention at the local hospital. Koy Kim Sorn, deputy director general of the General Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior, said correctional officials had followed the correct protocol in handling the case.

“When prisoners get sick, there are doctors at the prison, and if doctors do not have the ability to save them, they are taken to the provincial hospital,” he said.

Sam Saron, director of Kratie provincial prison, said today that he was “too busy” to comment.

Vong Vireak and another man from a local veterans group, the “Association Cripple Development”, Keo Chhit, were arrested in August on charges of threatening local wildlife officials.

The ACD claims that about 620 member families were promised 4,000 hectares in Kratie’s Snuol district after applying for a social land concession in 2008.

In April last year, however, officials announced that the land belonged to five private companies.

“According to the complaint, the two men were ringleaders and incited about 500 people to grab land,” Mak Pheang, investigating judge at Kratie provincial court, said at the time.

The men faced up to five years in prison if convicted, though a trial in the case has yet to be scheduled.

Yan Yoeuk, director of the ACD, said the families’ situation remained unresolved and that they planned to stage a protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh residence next week.

Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for local rights group Adhoc, said prison director Sam Saron had informed him that Vong Vireak had been suffering from high blood pressure and liver problems at the time of his death.

“Prisoners who get sick cannot avoid death because the authorities have no willingness to save prisoners’ lives,” he said.

Ouch Leng, head of the land programme for Adhoc, went further, saying the injuries on Vong Vireak’s body and the fact that he had recently been separated from his friend Keo Chhit provided evidence that he had been abused by prison officials.

Some 83 prisoners died in custody last year, according to the General Department of Prisons.

Woman dies in labour firm custody

Photo by: Pha Lina
Members of a disabled community in Kratie province protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh residence last year.

via CAAI

Sunday, 27 February 2011 19:13 Mom Kunthear

Family members have dropped a legal complaint over the death of a 36-year-old woman who died this weekend while in the custody of a labour recruitment firm, in exchange for US$4,000 in compensation from the company, they said today, while a rights group has called for further investigation into the case.

Chhem Sopheap, 36, died at the labour recruitment firm IIS in Dangkor district’s Dangkor commune in Phnom Penh on Saturday night after battling a month-long illness.

Chhem Sopheap’s husband, Heng Saroeun, 52, said the company refused to release his wife for treatment at the hospital, despite repeated requests, demanding he pay them US$800 to reimburse the costs of her training.

“I went to the company on Monday last week to ask the director [if I could] take my wife for treatment at home or the hospital, but they declined and said if I want my wife to leave the company I have to give them $800,” Heng Saroeun said.

“He denied me, and asked me to find the money for the company because he is afraid of us cheating the company.”

IIS paid Chhem Sopheap 1.2 million riels ($297) when she entered their programme, which trains women to become maids and connects them with employment in Malaysia, Heng Saroeun said.

Chhem Sopheap would have paid back the cost of her training from her salary.

Heng Saroeun said he negotiated IIS down to $400 for his wife’s release, but didn’t have enough.

“I took my land title [and] I sold my moto to get $190 to exchange to take my wife from the firm, but they still denied my request until my wife died in my arms,” he said.

Officials at Preah Kossomak hospital had told him the cause of death was a heart attack, he said, but they could not be reached directly for confirmation today.

Heng Saroeun said his wife had previously been healthy and suspected that she was underfed at the two-month training programme.

Thach Sotharath, the IIS director, denied responsibility for Chhem Sopheap’s death.

“She died of a heart attack and we tried our best to help her to send her to the hospital, but she could not be helped,” he said.

“Chhem Sopheap got sick and we sent her to the private clinic four times already while she was training … and we also spent about $200 on her treatment,” Thach Sotharath said.

Chhem Sopheap’s mother, Chea Pov, 60, did not believe her daughter died of a heart attack.

She said Chhem Sopheap had called her a week before she died to tell her she had vomited blood and felt severe body pains.

“We filed the complaint to the police to demand $10,000 for compensation and find out the reason my daughter died.”

“First the firm director agreed to give me 3 million riel ($743) for compensation, but I could not accept it. My daughter’s life is not cheap like this. She is a person, not an animal,” Chea Pov said.

They agreed, however, to accept $4,000 and drop the complaint.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said his organisation would continue investigating the case and called on police to do the same.

“It is the right of the family to drop the complaint and take the money, but for the law the police officials have to keep investigating with this case whether the woman died because she was sick or detained,” he said.

Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office in the Ministry of Interior, said he was not aware of the case, but that police were obligated to investigate further to find out the cause of death.

Thai PM: UNESCO Agrees not to Let Temple Issue Raise Border Tension

via CAAI

2011-02-27 18:56:16
Web Editor: Xu

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday that UNESCO had agreed that the issue of Preah Vihear temple, which is a World Heritage site, should not further raise tension on the Thai-Cambodian border.

"UNESCO has agreed with us that the World Heritage issue should not become a problem that creates tension or increases the risk of clashes or using of violence again," Abhisit said in his weekly national televised address.

Abhisit on Friday met with Koichiro Matsuura, special envoy of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the Government House in Bangkok on the border dispute over a 4. 6-square kilometer plot of land around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which belongs to Cambodia and was awarded as a World Heritage site on July 7, 2008.

Cambodia plans to submit its proposal for administering the disputed border area to UNESCO's World Heritage committee in June this year.

Abhisit said the administration plan covers territory claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

"This is an idea to say that at the end, if UNESCO does not accept this fact, the tension will continue forever," the premier said.

He said he has let Matsuura, who visited Phnom Penh after Bangkok, know about this position of Thailand.

Last Sunday in the same program, Abhisit said UNESCO could help alleviate the tension along the border by not proceeding with the administration plan, and that the organization should first let Bangkok and Phnom Penh settle the demarcation of the troubled area through their bilateral mechanism.

A series of crossfire between Thai and Cambodian soldiers earlier this month inflicted casualties on both sides and forced thousands of local villagers to flee their homes.

Essex Amphibious Ready Group Arrives in Cambodia for Maritime Exercise

GULF OF THAILAND (Feb. 17, 2011) - Marines assigned to 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) Force Reconnaissance Platoon conduct a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) rehearsal on board USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011), as a part of exercise Cobra Gold 2011. 31st MEU is currently participating in exercise Cobra Gold, a U.S. and Thai cosponsored multinational exercise designed to improve interoperability between participating nations. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran)

via CAAI

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran
Posted: February 27, 2011

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – The The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrive off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia for Maritime Exercise (MAREX) 11 on Feb. 26.

MAREX 11 is a theater security cooperation visit designed to enhance interoperability and improve capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

“The U. S. Navy is always honored to have the opportunity to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia,” said Capt. Bradley Lee, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. “Visits such as this help to further strengthen the relationship between our two governments.”

This port visit provides USS Essex (LHD 2) crew members a chance to serve as goodwill ambassadors for the U.S., promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. It also demonstrates commitment to regional partnerships and fosters growing relationships with the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The ARG will embark 60 RCAF personnel to introduce them to humanitarian assistance disaster relief procedures and Essex shipboard operations.

“Essex will conduct shipboard operations such as damage control, navigation and engineering operations with the Royal Cambodian Navy,” said Lt. Justin Jomoto, PHIBRON 11 future operations officer. “By teaching and showing their navy what we do, we give them a perspective of how another navy operates.”

Beachmaster Unit 1 and Assault Craft Unit 1 will be conducting a beach survey to make sure the beach is suitable for landing craft to storm the beach.

ARG Sailors will conduct two community service projects, one at the Goodwill School and the other at Villiage d’enfant de Sihanoukville, an orphanage in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The Sailors will be able to read and play with the kids.

“Cambodia has also demonstrated a willingness to cooperate closely on counterterrorism, peacekeeping, disaster response, and medical and health related activities,” said Lee.

The 31st MEU medical team and Cambodian medical personnel will provide primary care services, dental care, optometry and ophthalmology for three days at the Al-Mujarharine Islamic Center in Kampong Som. They will be treating medical problems such as hypertension, skin infection, dental problems, vision problems, asthma and more.

Marines will also conduct jungle warfare training, aviation demonstrations, visit, board, search and seizure training while in Cambodia.

Towards the end of the exercise, Essex ARG and 31st MEU will participate in a sports day with local Cambodian citizens and play soccer and volleyball.

Essex ARG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106).

The Essex ARG reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan.

Asian NGOs condemn defamation suit on activist

Sam Chankea - Photo courtesy of

via CAAI

By admin, on 27 February 2011

More than two dozen Asian civil society groups have condemned the conviction of Sam Chankea, a Cambodian human rights defender, for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

We, the undersigned human rights NGOs, human rights defenders and women human rights defenders of Asia, deeply regret the conviction of Mr. Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC).

Mr. Chankea is a human rights defender active in land rights issues in Kampong Chhnang province. He was charged with defamation under Article 305 of the New Penal Code by the KDC International Company, a development company allegedly owned by Lauk Chumteav Chea Kheng, the wife of the Minister of Mining and Energy in Cambodia. On 25 January 2011, the Kg. Chhnang Provincial Court ruled against Mr. Sam Chankea and ordered him to pay a 1 million Riel fine and an additional 3 million Riel in compensation. If he does not pay the 4 million Riel (approximately US$1,000), he faces imprisonment.

Mr. Sam Chankea was charged for defamation by the KDC International Company because of a statement he made during a radio interview on Radio Free Asia (RFA) on 26 December 2009. In this interview he expressed his opinion on an ongoing land case in Kampong Chhnang between 108 families and the KDC International Company. There is a pending case between the families of Kampong Chhang and the KDC International Company, but still, the KDC International Company sent in its machinery to undertake land levelling. Mr. Sam Chankea considered the activity of land levelling by the KDC Company as an unlawful act. He stated that “what the company has done is an act of violation since the court has yet to rule on the merits of the case. Therefore the company should suspend the activity and await the ruling on the merits of the case”.

Mr Sam Chankea was well within his rights as a human rights defender to speak publicly on his opinion on a human rights issue. Under Article 6(b) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, he has the right to freely impart his views on all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Furthermore, Cambodia is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the right to freedom of expression is protected under Article 19(2) of the Covenant. It is expressly stated there that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression”. The right to freedom of expression is also protected under Article 41 of the Constitution of Cambodia, which states that “Khmer citizens shall have freedom of expression, press, publication, and assembly”. This right, however, can be subject to certain limitations, such as those provided by law and those that are necessary “for the protection of national security or of public order”.

Article 305 of the New Penal Code is meant to be a limitation of this right. However, calls have been made by several human rights groups for the review of this defamation law on the grounds that it is not a lawful derogation of the right to freedom of expression. A close inspection of Article 305 of the Penal Code reveals provisions that are too broad and ambiguous. This means that there would be great potential for the misuse and abuse of this law, which would lead towards an unlawful infringement of the very right itself. The UN Human Rights Committee, in its General Comment No. 10, explains that “when a State party imposes certain restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, these may not put in jeopardy the right itself”.

We, the undersigned human rights defenders and women human rights defenders, believe that the present case is an example of the abuse of the defamation law by a non-state actor. The statement of Mr Sam Chankea is a mere expression of opinion and a legitimate criticism of the acts of KDC International Company. A final verdict against Mr. Sam Chankea will have a chilling effect upon human rights defenders who work to expose abuses committed by businesses in Cambodia, especially those involved in land-grabbing and other acts in violation of the rights of Cambodian citizens. This case is a clear illustration of the defamation laws being used to silence dissenting and critical voices of human rights defenders.

We strongly urge the Appeal Court to promptly review the case of Mr. Sam Chankea in conformity with relevant international human rights standards, and therefore overturn the verdict issued by the Kg. Chhnang Provincial Court and acknowledge the fact that the defamation charges against Mr. Sam Chankea was clearly intended to hinder his work as a human rights defender.

We strongly urge the government of Cambodia to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders who face reprisals from state and non-state actors because of their exercise of the right to freedom of expression. We also call on the government to repeal Article 305 of the Penal Code which makes defamation a criminal offence and which has clearly been used largely to silence the voices of human rights defenders.

The following groups endorse this statement:

1. Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia (AJI), Indonesia
2. Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR)
3. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
4. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Right (LICADHO), Cambodia
5. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia
6. Friends’ Association for Rural Reconstruction (FARR), India
7. Globe International, Mongolia
8. The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIAL), Indonesia
9. Indonesia’s NGO Coalition for International Human Right Advocacy – Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Indonesia
10. Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice (IHCS), Indonesia
11. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre (INFORM), Sri Lanka
12. Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), Nepal
13. Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), Timor Leste
14. Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), South Korea
15. Law and Society Trust (LST), Sri Lanka
16. National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal
17. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea
18. People’s Watch, India
19. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines
20. Sudhanthra, India
21. Tanggol Kalikasan, Philippines
22. The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT)
23. Think Centre, Singapore
24. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal
25. World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA)